VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican's long-time sex abuse prosecutor has been named to head up a new Vatican board to hear appeals by priests sanctioned for molesting minors.
Bishop Charles Scicluna will head the panel, which also includes some of the Vatican's most senior and seasoned canon lawyers, the Vatican said Wednesday.
Pope Francis in November announced the creation of the panel to speed up the Vatican's review of appeals of priests sanctioned for abuse. In recent years, the Vatican has been receiving on average 400-500 accusations a year, significantly increasing the caseload of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Scicluna was the congregation's sex crimes prosecutor from 2002-2012, and was responsible for cracking down on abusive priests with new laws that allowed the pope to defrock a priest when the evidence was overwhelming even without a church trial. He has been praised by victims of abuse for his tough line.
In an email to The Associated Press, Scicluna said the idea behind Francis' decision was to ensure that appeals against these non-trial cases are reviewed by cardinals and bishops who are experts in canon law. "The work of the commission will help the (congregation) process recourses in an expedited way," he said.
In 2012, Scicluna became an auxiliary bishop in his native Malta, and in October took over running the archdiocese of Valletta after its archbishop fell ill.
He was expected to remain in that position even with the new appointment, which is not full-time. Even while he was in Malta, Scicluna remained a member of the congregation, active in its deliberations.
Other members of the new panel include the top two canon lawyers at the Vatican's legal affairs department and its emeritus head.
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