Pope Francis reveals new church law to deal with paedophile priests

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Move to remove Catholic bishops from office if they fail to sack known child abusers is response to demand by victims

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Pope Francis. Many have long accused bishops of simply moving priests accused of abuse to another parish, rather than report them to police or church authorities.

Pope Francis. Many have long accused bishops of simply moving priests accused of abuse to another parish, rather than report them to police or church authorities.

Catholic bishops who fail to sack paedophile priests can be removed from office under new church laws announced by Pope Francis.

The move, announced by the pope on Saturday, answers a long-running demand by victims of abuse to make bishops responsible if they fail to stop clergy sexually abusing parishioners.

Many have long accused bishops of simply moving priests accused of abuse to another parish, rather than report them to police or church authorities. While acknowledging that church laws already allowed for a bishop to be removed for negligence, Francis said he wanted the “grave reasons” more precisely defined. However, doubts remain about the Vatican’s commitment to tackling the issue.

Juan Barros was appointed a bishop in Chile in March 2015. He had been accused of ignoring reports of abuse by Father Fernando Karadima, a Chilean priest who was found guilty of molestation by the Vatican in 2011. Victims claimed Barros not only helped cover up the crimes, but in some instances observed the abuse. Barros has denied the allegations and the Vatican said he had the church’s support.

Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor who sits on a papal commission to protect children, said Francis had been vocal about the abuse scandals. However, he criticised the church’s handling of another case in Missouri, where bishop Robert Finn has remained in power even after being convicted of failing to report clerical child sex abuse.

A former Vatican ambassador, Józef Wesołowski, died before he was due to go on trial at the Vatican for possessing child pornography.

During his visit to the US last September, the pontiff met victims of Catholic church sex abuse and vowed that those responsible would face justice. It was the first time Francis had met abuse victims outside of Rome, where he had done so once before. The pope had already apologised for the church’s inadequate response to the US abuse crisis.

The scandal has severely tarnished the church’s reputation and cost $3bn (£2bn) in settlements in the US.

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