Pope Francis has called a meeting of Catholic bishops for early next year to discuss prevention of sexual abuse within the church, the Vatican announced Wednesday.
The unprecedented convocation, which has a theme of “protection of minors,” will take place in Rome from February 21-24, the Vatican Council of Cardinals announced.
The Vatican said the council has “reflected extensively together with the Holy Father on the theme of abuse” since it last met.
The presidents of all national bishops’ conferences were called to attend the February meeting.
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Experts say the meeting may be a sign the pope is attempting to get out in front of the issue of sexual abuse in the church.
Last month, former Vatican ambassador Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused Pope Francis and former Pope Benmedict XVI of ignoring reports of sexual abuse by U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
McCarrick resigned from his position this summer.
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The Vatican announcement also follows a Pennsylvania grand jury report three weeks ago that outlined reported cases of abuse. The pope also met with abuse victims earlier this month in Ireland.