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Pope calls his cardinals to Rome for sex-abuse summit

The Pope has summoned the world's cardinals, including Ireland's Sean Brady, to Rome next week for a summit meeting to respond to the clerical child sex abuse crisis.

This will be the first time that Pope Benedict XVI has placed the abuse scandals, that have rocked the Catholic Church, for consideration by a summit of 203 cardinals.

But the unprecedented move was received sceptically by victims of paedophile clerics who claimed that most cardinals have poor records in dealing with abuse cases.

Dublin victim Andrew Madden, author of 'Altar Boy, A Story of Life After Abuse', said: "If the talks are anything like the Irish bishops' visit to Rome earlier this year, they will amount to nothing."

The head of a victims' group in America said the proof would be, not in the discussion but, in the results.

"To be swayed by mere talk is to betray vulnerable children and wounded adults," said Barbara Blaine of Chicago, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The summit of cardinals will convene a week before the first anniversary of the shocking report of the Murphy Commission which revealed hundreds of cases of child sex abuse by the clergy in the archdiocese of Dublin, as well as systematic cover-ups by church leaders over several decades.

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Expected to emerge from the discussions will be further details of a special probe by outside church leaders, ordered by Pope Benedict, into the four main archdioceses in Ireland of Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Tuam.

Earlier this year, the crisis spread to the Pope's native Germany, as well as Belgium, Austria, and the Netherlands which replicated cover-ups in Africa and Latin America.

Described as a "day of reflection and prayer", the talks are scheduled to take place at the Vatican's synod hall on Friday, November 19.

Cardinal William Levada, the American who heads the Vatican office in charge of drawing up policy to fight abuse, will head the discussion of "the church's response to cases of sex abuse", the Vatican said.

These talks will be held on the eve of an expansion by Pope Benedict of the college of cardinals on Saturday, November 20, when he confers Red Hats on 24 new Princes of the Church.

The abuse talks will also cover other major issues facing the Catholic Church, including the procedure for admitting five Anglican bishops disaffected by the Church of England's acceptance of women priests and homosexual clergy.

Other issues to be discussed include threats to religious freedom, especially in the Middle East, and relations with other religions.

Terence McKiernan, president of the Boston-based BishopsAccountability.org called on the cardinals to issue a comprehensive statement addressing their own failings and outlining better policies for the future.

Mr McKiernan said progress had been made on sexual abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church because of investigations and prosecutions by civil authorities.

"Yet Cardinal Sean Brady, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, continues to reject calls that he resign, despite his failure in 1975 to report Rev Brendan Smyth to civil authorities," he added. "As a result of Brady's inaction, Smyth abused hundreds of children in Ireland and the United States over the next 20 years."

Mr McKiernan added: "The Vatican itself impeded the previous investigation of the Archdiocese of Dublin."

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