Francis' key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, as the latest chapter in the Catholic Church's long-running sex abuse and cover-up scandal has thrown Francis' papacy into crisis. The Vatican Press Office explained that, after hearing the Council of Cardinals, the Pope chose to convene the meeting, which will be tackling the theme of "Protection of minors".
Have questions for Michael or Ashley?
The revelation was the latest development in a sequence of events in the U.S. that began with the June announcement that one of the most senior U.S. cardinals, Theodore McCarrick, had been accused of groping a teenage altar boy in the 1970s.
After launching a "season of healing" in the archdiocese on 14 September, the cardinal explained to his priests that "in the very near future" he plans "to meet with our Holy Father about the resignation I presented almost three years ago, November 12, 2015".
The head of the US bishops' conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of the Galveston-Houston area in the southwestern state of Texas, and other Catholic leaders in the United States say they want answers from the pontiff about allegations he knew years ago about credible information that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Washington had abused a teenage altar boy in the 1970s and other seminarians and young priests, but did not confront McCarrick about the allegations.
DiNardo's deputy Jose Horacio Gomez and general secretary Brian Bransfield also attended the closed-door meeting.
The letter, originally published on August 30, calls on Francis to respond to Viganò's accusation that the pontiff was made aware of alleged sexual abuse by Cardinal McCarrick as early as 2013, and subsequently failed to act.
In addition, embattled Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is facing calls to step down over his handling of sex-abuse cases, revealed this week he will travel to Rome to meet with the pope "very soon" to discuss his possible resignation - which the cardinal had proposed two years ago.
Bransfield served as vice principal of an archdiocesan high school in Philadelphia and, later, was named director of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. He became a bishop in West Virginia in 2005.
"There is something I have understood with great clarity", Francis told them. Protocols for dealing with abuse in the church vary wildly from country to country. The report also found systemic mishandling of allegations of sexual abuse by the German Catholic hierarchy.
The Vatican in 2011 ordered every bishops conference around the world to develop written guidelines to prevent abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. The first abuse is of power and conscience. "I ask you for help with this".
And in 2005 McCarrick was one of three bishop-consecrators who presided at Bishop Bransfield's ordination to the episcopate in 2005.