Pope Francis is to set up a Vatican commission devoted to child protection and the pastoral care of victims of sexual abuse by priests, it was announced today.
The commission will look at child protection programmes across the worldwide Church and work with dioceses to encourage best practice.
According to the US-based Catholic News Service, it will advise the Pope on improving the safeguarding of children and pastoral care to the victims of abuse.
It will also focus on the way candidates for the priesthood are screened, the formation of priests, and safeguarding codes of conduct.
The new commission was announced by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, one of Pope Francis’ eight-member Council of Cardinals, at a press conference in the Vatican.
Cardinal O’Malley has extensive experience of dealing with clerical sexual abuse. He was appointed to take over the archdiocese of Boston after reports of abuse by priests there made international headlines in 2002.
The commission was an initiative proposed by the eight cardinals to Pope Francis.
Last week, Fr Robert Oliver, the Vatican’s top prosecutor on sexual abuse cases, told The Tablet the Holy See could expand its child protection work to assist dioceses across the world.
No details were announced about who would sit on the commission, but the cardinal said it will include lay people.
So far the Vatican’s work has been solely focused on the canonical process against priests accused of sexual abuse and is overseen by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal O’Malley said this work by the congregation would not change.
Meanwhile, it was announced that the group of eight would meet with Pope Francis again from 17 to 19 February with the prelates due to be made cardinals at a consistory on 22 February.
Earlier this week it was announced that the eight cardinals, who are on their second round of meetings, have been looking at Vatican offices in an effort to re-organise the Roman Curia, writes Robert Mickens.
The Pope and his advisory group began meeting on Tuesday and are due to go on until today at his Domus Sanctae Marthae.
They began their review of curial offices with the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said the group also met briefly with the Pope’s new Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin.