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Pope tells bishops to fight abuse, culture behind it

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has told newly ordained bishops they must reject all forms of abuse and work in communion — not as lone operators — to fight the clerical culture that fueled a sex abuse and cover-up scandal rocking his papacy.

Francis cited his recent letter about combatting abuse during an audience Saturday with 74 new bishops from 34 countries. The bishops are at the Vatican learning how to pastor their flocks.

Their seminar has come at a moment of crisis for the pope: an archbishop has alleged Francis covered up for a disgraced ex-cardinal in the United States, Theodore McCarrick, who was accused of sexually molesting youngsters and seminarians.

Francis has ignored calls from bishops, primarily in the U.S., to respond directly to the allegation.