ROME, April 15 (AP) - Pope John Paul II has summoned American cardinals to the Vatican for an extraordinary meeting to talk about sex scandals in the U.S. church.

The meeting will probably take place next week, the Vatican said Monday, without providing any additional details.

However, a source close to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the meeting has been scheduled for April 23-24. The delegation is to meet with several Vatican officials, although it was not immediately known whether the U.S. leaders would see the pope, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The summons comes just days after the top U.S. bishops were in Rome for their semiannual talks with the 81-year-old pontiff. The sex abuse scandals dominated the discussions.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the pope wants to help.

"He extended his hand in support to the bishops of the United States," Gregory said Saturday. "The Holy See has demonstrated an extraordinary openness in understanding the particular situation that we face in the United States."

Gregory said there was no discussion last week of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who has faced growing criticism since acknowledging he transferred a priest to another parish despite knowing of sexual misconduct allegations against the man.

Two weeks ago, Gregory told The Associated Press there was a possibility the U.S. bishops would ask the Vatican to approve a binding sex abuse policy for American clergy. He said details would be released at the bishops meeting in June.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Bishop Gregory and Bishop William Skylstad, the conference vice president, will join the U.S. cardinals at the meeting. Walsh said the Holy See has not set an agenda.

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States and elsewhere is under fire for its handling of a series of allegations of sex abuse by priests.

The church is accused of covering up misconduct by priests, in some cases by moving known abusers from job to job. It has already paid millions in damages and faces numerous lawsuits from victims.

John Paul has spoken only briefly of the scandals and some critics have sharply faulted the Vatican for a lack of leadership in a time of deep crisis.

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