Pope Francis called Sunday for the support of all of the clergy and congregation of the Roman Catholic Church for an upcoming Vatican summit aimed at trying to chart a way out of the sex abuse scandals that have engulfed the religious organization for years.
Following the customary Angelus prayer at the Vatican, Francis said all the presidents of all the Episcopal Conferences had been asked to come to the meeting focusing on the protection of minors in the Church to be held at the Vatican from Feb. 21-24.
“The goal is that all of the Bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors,” a statement from the Holy See’s press office said about the upcoming summit.
The Pontiff said he had called the summit “as an act of strong pastoral responsibility in the face of an urgent challenge of our time.”
Next week’s meeting is set to include plenary sessions, working groups, moments of common prayer, listening to testimonies, a penitential liturgy, and a final Eucharistic celebration, Vatican officials have said.
Francis will be present for every part of the summit, although he said he had entrusted Federico Lombardi, a former director of the Holy See's press office, with the task of moderating the plenary sessions.
According to the Vatican, Pope Francis is aware that a problem exists on a global scale and it can only be solved with a truly global response.
Francis has said that he does not want the summit to be an academic conference, rather “a meeting characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering.”
The unprecedented summit on "The protection of minors in the Church" is set to bring together high-ranking officials from 130 countries, leading clergy from the Church’s major congregations and also representative of victims.
The Vatican said the Church intended for the proceedings to be as transparent as possible and there would be effective methods to make complaints.
The summit comes in the wake of the expulsion of the ex-cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington DC, Theodore McCarrick, from the priesthood for abuse.
McCarrick became the highest-ranking Catholic figure to be defrocked in modern times.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty of abusing minors and adults with the aggravation of having abused his position of power.