Pope Francis has reactivated a panel of experts on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church tasked with looking into prevention and care for the victims, the Vatican said on Saturday.
Francis had faced criticism for failing to renew the three-year mandate of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors when it lapsed in December.
The statement said that the commission would resume work under the confirmed leadership of Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean O’Malley, and with 16 members, including nine who are newly appointed.
“The pope has given much prayerful consideration in nominating these members who will add to the Commission’s global perspective in the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.
“The panel will continue assisting local churches throughout the world in their efforts to safeguard all children, young people, and vulnerable adults from harm,’’ O’Malley said.
The Vatican’s announcement came after weeks in which the decades-old worldwide scandal of paedophile priests appeared to have come back to haunt Francis.
Visiting Chile in January, the pope angered clergy sex abuse victims by insisting they had no proof against a bishop who allegedly witnessed abuse and failed to report it.
Francis’ defense of Bishop Juan Barros sparked an outcry, after which the pope apologised and asked the Vatican’s top investigator on sexual abuse, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, to look into the case.
On Thursday, the Vatican also confirmed a press report according to which Francis told fellow Jesuits in Chile that he has regular, private meetings at the Vatican with abuse victims.