Pope Appoints Former Child Victim to Church Group on Sex Abuse

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March 23, 2014 5:33 PM EST

Pope Francis on Saturday named a victim of sexual abuse by a priest to be part of a core group formed to help the Catholic Church tackle the problem of clerical pedophilia that has dogged it for two decades.

Reuters
Pope Francis looks on as he leads a special audience with pilgrims from Terni's diocese in Paul VI hall at the Vatican

The formation of a group of experts was first announced in December, and today the pope named the first eight members - four female and four male - from eight different countries.

These initial members will be responsible for rounding out the "commission for safeguarding minors" with other experts from around the world and defining the scope of the group's action.

"Pope Francis has made clear that the Church must hold the protection of minors amongst Her highest priorities," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

"Looking to the future without forgetting the past, the Commission will take a multi-pronged approach to promoting youth protection," he said.

These will include taking criminal action against offenders, educating people about the exploitation of children, developing best practices to better screen priests, and defining the civil and clerical duties within the Church, Lombardi said.

Among those named to the group was Marie Collins, who was a victim of sexual abuse in Ireland in the 1960s and who has campaigned actively for the protection of children and for justice for victims of clerical pedophilia.

Another member of the commission is the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, known as a pioneer for a more open approach to tackling scandal since he published a database of Boston clergy accused of sexual abuse of minors online in 2011.

(Photo: Reuters / )
Pope Francis looks on as he leads a special audience with pilgrims from Terni's diocese in Paul VI hall at the Vatican
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