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Pope Francis gives a speech at Malmo Arena. Photo: Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Pope Francis on Wednesday vowed to rid the Catholic Church of sexual abuse, just one day after a detailed report emerged exposing how a former cardinal rose through the Roman Catholic hierarchy despite a string of misconduct allegations.

What he's saying: “I renew my closeness to victims of any abuse and commitment of the church to eradicate this evil,” Francis said Wednesday, per AP, offering his prayers to victims.

Driving the news: The explosive Vatican report, commissioned by Francis, found that Pope John Paul II ignored decades of allegations and warnings about sexual abuse by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. “McCarrick’s direct relationship with John Paul II also likely had an impact on the Pope’s decision making,” the report stated.

  • Pope Francis heard rumors of McCarrick's misconduct, but until 2017, the pope had no documentation of the allegations, per the report. “What is now known is that three of the four American bishops provided inaccurate and incomplete information to the Holy See regarding McCarrick’s sexual conduct with young adults,” the report concludes.
  • It further notes that McCarrick appealed to John Paul II’s trusted secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, insisting he was blameless.
  • “McCarrick’s denial was believed,” the report says, and the allegations subsequently dismissed.
  • The abuse was made public in 2018, and critics accused Pope Francis of a cover-up. A year later McCarrick became the highest-ranking American official to be removed for sexual abuse when the Pope Francis ousted him from priesthood.
  • The report "largely absolved the current pope," the New York Times writes.

The impact: "The report will have wide implications for a global church that has been roiled for decades over its mishandling of sexual abuse by clergy," per the Times, adding, "The church now has to reckon with the fact that one of its most beloved pontiffs is implicated is one of its most notorious scandals."

Go deeper

Pope Francis congratulates Biden in phone call

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden spoke with Pope Francis on Thursday, thanking him for "extending blessings and congratulations" and praising the pope for his leadership in "promoting peace, reconciliation, and the common bonds of humanity around the world," according to the Biden transition team.

The big picture: Biden will be the second-ever Catholic president, joined only by John F. Kennedy.

3 hours ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Nursing homes are still getting pummeledU.S. could hit herd immunity by end of summer 2021 if Americans embrace virus vaccines, Fauci says.
  2. Politics: Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework.
  3. World: U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for mass rollout — Putin says Russia will begin large-scale vaccination next week.
  4. Business: Investors are finally starting to take their money out of safe-haven Treasuries.
  5. Sports: The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight.