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ABOUT: The Vatican press office was skewered by Twitter users on Thursday for releasing a photo showing Pope Francis grinning along with US cardinals and bishops during an emergency meeting to address a church sex scandal.In the handout image from the Vatican Media, the Holy Father looks to be in a jovial mood while talking to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, who leads the US Conference of Bishops, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Horacio Gomez and Monsignor Brian Bransfield, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.All five clergyman in the photo taken before a private audience to address the groping allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick appear to be smiling or laughing.To make matters worse, the focal point of the image is a statuette decorating the Pope’s desk, which depicts a man in a long tunic with his arm draped around a young boy.Critics on Twitter were quick to seize upon the jolly mood captured in the photo, which they argued was tone-deaf given the serious nature of the meeting.’Here is @Pontifex merry as all get out! Laughing past the graveyard.’one user wrote.One irked commenter fired off: ‘they look like they’re having a good time talking about rape.’ Twitter user Kevin O’Higgins lashed out at Vatican officials for allowing this image to be made public.’Whoever in Vatican’s Press Office decided this was an appropriate depiction of today’s meeting should be fired,’ he fumed.The Pope this morning accepted the resignation of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield and gave the green light to launch an investigation into allegations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults.The news came just as the highly anticipated emergency meeting between Francis and US cardinals and bishops was getting under way in the Vatican to address the McCarrick scandal.After the audience, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo released a statement calling the meeting ‘fruitful’ and saying the US Catholic Church and Vatican will work together to determine the next steps.’We are grateful to the Holy Father for receiving us in audience.We shared with Pope Francis our situation in the United States – how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse.He listened very deeply from the heart,’ DiNardo stated.’It was a lengthy, fruitful, and good exchange.’As we departed the audience, we prayed the Angelus together for God’s mercy and strength as we work to heal the wounds.We look forward to actively continuing our discernment together identifying the most effective next steps.’ DiNardo made no mention of his earlier plans to ask Francis to authorize a Vatican investigation into McCarrick’s case.Bransfield had been implicated in 2012 in an infamous Philadelphia priestly sex abuse case, but he denied ever abusing anyone and claimed vindication years ago.He continued with his ministry until he offered to retire, as required, when he turned 75 last

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