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Pope reactivates Vatican panel on child sex abuse

Alvise Armellini, DPA on

Published in News & Features

VATICAN CITY –– Pope Francis has reactivated a panel of experts on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church assigned to look into prevention and care for victims, the Vatican said Saturday.

Francis is under fire over his handling of the decades-old worldwide scandal of pedophile priests, including for not immediately renewing the panel's three-year mandate when it expired in December.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors will resume work under the leadership of Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, a statement said.

It will have 16 members, including nine who are newly appointed.

The panel will continue "assist(ing) local churches throughout the world in their efforts to safeguard all children, young people, and vulnerable adults from harm," O'Malley said.

New members include abuse survivors who asked to remain anonymous, the Vatican said. Other survivors were members of the old commission but resigned, claiming it was ineffective.

As she quit March 1, Irish victim and campaigner Marie Collins accused the Vatican's bureaucracy of stonewalling the panel's work, and called it "unacceptable" and "devastating."

In a statement to the National Catholic Reporter, Collins denounced the commission's "lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement and cultural resistance."

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Saturday's announcement came as the Vatican was struggling with the fallout of a child abuse scandal in Chile, revived by the pope's visit to the country in January.

Francis angered victims by insisting they had no "proof" against a bishop who allegedly witnessed abuse and did not report it.

Francis' defense of Bishop Juan Barros sparked an outcry, after which the pope apologized and asked the Vatican's top investigator on sexual abuse, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, to look into the case.

The Rev. Fernando Karadima, an influential priest from Santiago de Chile whom the Vatican found guilty of child molestation in 2011, was allegedly protected by Barros.

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