Pope Benedict XVI on Friday was holding talks with cardinals from all over the world focusing on pressing issues facing the Catholic church, including sexual abuse of minors by priests and religious freedom. The Vatican said some 150 "princes of the church" are taking part in the day-long meeting of prayer and reflection.
Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church's College of Cardinals gathered this morning in the Vatican for a day of prayer and reflection ahead of the weekend's consistory (large meeting) for the creation of new cardinals.
Attending the meeting are cardinals from all over the world who have come to attend the ceremonies this weekend in which 24 new princes of the church will receive their red hats and cardinal rings.
Among them is U.S. Cardinal designate, Archbishop of Washington DC, Donald Wuerl who says religious freedom is one of the main issues being addressed at the meeting.
"There are places around the world where you simply cannot openly worship, you cannot have a Catholic Church, you cannot have a Christian community openly celebrating the sacraments. There are places where freedom of conscience and freedom of religion are simply denied for lots of reasons," he said.
Pope Benedict is likely to hold discussions with the cardinals about the ongoing persecution of Christians around the world, including recent attacks in Iraq. A fresh dispute with communist China over the unilateral ordination of a bishop not approved by the Vatican is also expected to be discussed.
Cardinals at the meeting will also be holding talks on the Church's response to the sex abuse crisis. The Catholic church has been hit by scandals involving the molestation of children by priests in several countries, including Ireland, the United States, Belgium, Brazil and the pope's native Germany.
This weekend’s consistory will be the third of Benedict's papacy. Of the 24 new cardinals, 20 are under 80 years old, which means they will be eligible to take part in the conclave that will elect the next pope.