VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis on Friday urged Vatican disciplinarians to act "with determination" against sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic clergy, the Holy See said in a statement, the pope's first public pronouncement on the issue.
"The Holy Father in particular asked that the congregation ... act with determination in cases of sexual abuse," the Vatican said, referring to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles such cases, after the pope met with its director.
The statement noted that the policy followed "the line established" by Pope Francis' predecessor Benedict XVI.
The Argentine pope, elected last month, asked for "stepped-up measures to protect minors and help those who were subjected to such violence in the past".
Also in line with his predecessor, Pope Francis asked for a continuation of "procedures against the guilty and the commitment of bishops' conferences (national churches) to formulate and implement the necessary directives in this area."
The scourge of abusive priests burst into the spotlight more than a decade ago with a cascade of scandals rocking the Church worldwide, from Ireland to the United States, from Australia to Benedict's native Germany.
The Vatican says it continues to receive around 600 claims against abusive priests every year, many of them dating back to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Sexual abuse by priests has often been coupled with cover-ups by their superiors, typically by transferring them to other parishes.