Vatican sources told Reuters last month that Theodore Cardinal McCarrick will almost certainly be dismissed from the priesthood, which would make him the highest profile Roman Catholic figure to be defrocked in modern times.

Vatican officials will meet at the end of the month for the long-awaited meeting on sexual abuse. Pope Francis had asked for the US Conference of Bishops, who met in November, to postpone any action until this meeting.

Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Vatican department that will rule on the case, met Pope Francis on Thursday, according to a public Vatican schedule.

The Vatican did not say what was discussed but one source said it was likely that Ladaria briefed the pontiff on the final stages of the McCarrick case. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.

Francis, who will have to sign off on any dismissal decision, wants the McCarrick case over before heads of national Catholic churches meet at the Vatican from Feb. 21-24 to discuss the global sexual abuse crisis, three Vatican sources told Reuters last month.