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Vatican revives pope’s sexual abuse panel

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Pope Francis / AFP PHOTO / Alberto PIZZOLI

The Vatican said Saturday it has renewed its anti-paedophile panel as Pope Francis acts to quell the global scandal over the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Nine new members were added to the panel, which had come under fire from two high-profile members, former sex abuse victims who quit at what they saw as a lack of reforms and obstruction at the highest level of the Catholic Church.

US Cardinal Sean O’Malley was confirmed as the head of the child protection panel along with seven other incumbent members.

“The newly-appointed members will add to the commission’s global perspective in the protection of minors and vulnerable adults,” O’Malley said in a statement.

“The Holy Father has ensured continuity in the work of our commission, which is to assist local churches throughout the world in their efforts to safeguard all children, young people, and vulnerable adults from harm.”

As well as O’Malley, the panel is now made up of eight men and eight women, including victims of abuse, the Vatican said.

It was set up in 2014 shortly after Francis was elected pope, but its work came in for strong criticism last year.

Irishwoman Marie Collins, who was raped by a hospital chaplain at the age of 13, quit the panel in March last year in protest at what she said was the “shameful” blocking of reforms.

Briton Peter Saunders, another sex abuse victim, also left in 2016 after a row over the panel’s handling of allegations of serial abuse by an Italian priest.

The announcement of the revival of the committee came just days after it was revealed that Francis held regular private meetings with people abused by members of the priesthood.

The pope has described the scandal as a “great humiliation” for the Catholic Church.

But he has been attacked for supporting Chilean bishop Juan Barros, who is accused of covering up crimes by a paedophile priest.


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