Pope Francis is facing criticism over sexual abuse claims  © AFP Alberto PIZZOLI

Heads of national Catholic bishops conferences from around the world have been summoned to the Vatican in February to discuss the protection of minors from sexual abuse.

Bishop Augustine Akubeze, the current President of the Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), is expected to attend the meeting.

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The meeting, according to a Vatican spokesperson, would take place from February 21 to 24, 2019.

Concise News understands that pope Francis summoned the meeting after Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), had asked for it.

DiNardo’s request followed allegation by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano that the pope knew for years about sexual misconduct by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick but did nothing about it.

It was also learned that 301 priests in Pennsylvania, US, had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years.

As a result, the Pope is due to meet on Thursday with US Catholic Church leaders who want to discuss the fallout from the report.

Francis has refused to respond to claims by the retired ambassador that Francis rehabilitated ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from canonical sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI.