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World's cardinals to hold sex abuse talks

media Protest against paedophiliac priests at the Vatican, 31 October 2010 Reuters

Cardinals from around the world will hold an unprecedented meeting in the Vatican on Friday to tackle the issue of sex abuse by priests. But Church officials are not making any promises.

The closed-door meeting, to be led by US Cardinal William Joseph Levada, will take up the theme of "The Church's response to sexual abuse cases".

Approximately 105 of the world's 203 cardinals - who elect new popes - are expected to attend.

Last year's publication in Ireland of a report documenting endemic child abuse by priests and widespread attempts by senior clergy to cover it up has plunged the Church into its worst crisis in many years.

A number of Church-related sex scandals have also broken in the United States and Europe, including in Germany - Pope Benedict's homeland.

Benedict has spoken out against the crimes, met with victims and tightened Church rules for dealing with abusers.

But abuse victims and other campaigners say that's not enough.

Barbara Blaine, head of the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says she wants this meeting to result in action.

"To be swayed by mere talk is to betray vulnerable children and wounded adults," she said in a statement.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi tried to lower expectations.

"It's a communication, information, clarification, reflection on some questions but not a very thorough examination," he said, adding that there would be little official communication from the Vatican after the talks.

"When we think about the relatively limited time during the day and the multiplicity of subjects that will be broached, we should not expect reports from the college of cardinals on these themes," Lombardi added.  

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