World's cardinals converge on Rome for crisis summit
THE world's cardinals met yesterday in a rare Vatican summit to discuss the sex abuse scandal, religious freedom and the conversion of Anglicans to Catholicism.
Pope Benedict XVI summoned the cardinals for a day of reflection before a ceremony today to create 24 new cardinals, who ultimately will choose his successor.
For the day-long meeting, Pope Benedict chose agenda items that were particularly timely, taking advantage of the presence in Rome of his top advisers to brief them on issues of concern.
The issues include clerical sex abuse, religious liberties, relations with other Christians, and the Vatican's invitation to Anglicans to convert en masse to Catholicism.
The Vatican last year made it easier for Anglicans to convert by allowing them to retain some of their liturgical practices and heritage. The Vatican official in charge of the conversion process, Cardinal William Levada, was to brief his fellow cardinals on the process yesterday afternoon.
As the cardinals were meeting, the church in Britain announced that about 50 Church of England priests had expressed interest in joining five of their bishops in converting to Roman Catholicism.
Cardinal Levada, who heads the Vatican's powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was also to brief the cardinals on the latest developments in the sex abuse crisis yesterday afternoon.
The scandal erupted anew earlier this year with reports of thousands of new victims in Europe and elsewhere coming forward. A small number of victims staged a protest yesterday to coincide with the meeting.
Vatican officials stressed they didn't expect any changes to emerge from the limited discussions.
The cardinals spent most of the morning session discussing religious freedom and the persecution of Catholics around the globe. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican No 2, recalled that the bishops from the Middle East had just wrapped up a two-week meeting on the plight and flight of Christians from their lands.
The situation in China was also raised, given China's planned ordination today of a bishop who doesn't have the Pope's approval and reports that Vatican-approved bishops are being forced to attend.
Communist China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, and worship is allowed only in state-backed churches, although millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to the Vatican.
Cardinal-designate Donald Wuerl of Washington said the plight of Catholics in the United States and West was raised as well, saying secular norms were encroaching on the abilities of Catholics to practice their faith.
It was a reference to Catholic hospitals that might be compelled to offer procedures such as abortion that would violate the conscience of staff.