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Vatican Preparing Response to Viganò Accusations

Pope Francis with Archbishop Georg Ganswein during the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican, September 5, 2018. (Max Rossi/Reuters)

Top advisers to Pope Francis said on Monday that the Vatican is preparing an official response to accusations that the pope helped cover up an American cardinal’s sexual misconduct.

The statement from the “C-9,” the nine cardinals who advise Francis on Church matters, came on the first day of a three-day meeting with the pope, one of several throughout the year.

The Holy See’s planned response will address accusations by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò — former Vatican ambassador to the United States — that Pope Francis covered up sexual abuse by now-disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Viganò roiled the Church with his bombshell statement last month that he’d warned Francis in 2013 about McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who had for years been dogged by rumors of sexual abuse of both minors and seminarians. More than two dozen other current and former Vatican officials also covered up for McCarrick, Viganò alleged.

Francis demoted McCarrick from cardinal status in July over credible allegations that he molested an altar boy in the 1970s in New York.

On Monday, the nine cardinals expressed “total solidarity with the pope over events of the last few weeks,” and said “the Holy See is working on formulating the potential and necessary clarifications.” Critics have accused Viganò of acting out of a personal vendetta against Francis, arising from the fact that the pope did not make him a cardinal.

“I will not say a single word on this,” Francis previously said of the accusations against him. “I read the statement this morning, and I must tell you sincerely that, I must say this, to you and all those who are interested: Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment.”

One C-9 member, Cardinal George Pell, is currently facing charges of decades-old sexual abuse in his home country of Australia. Another, Chilean cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, has been accused of covering for sexual abusers in the Church.

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