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Pope Francis renews Vatican’s anti-sexual abuse panel

Pope Francis has announced the renewal of the Church’s panel tasked with combating sexual abuse of children, in the wake of a fresh controversy.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is made up of eight men and eight women – nine of which are new members.

Its original three-year mandate expired in December.

In recent weeks, Pope Francis has been under fire for his defence of a bishop accused of witnessing sexual abuse.

During his trip to Chile in January, he told journalists that in the case of Bishop Juan Barros: “There is not a single piece of proof against him. Everything is slander. Is this clear?

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His remarks offended some of the victims of Fernando Karadima. They said Bishop Barros was present while Karadima molested them decades ago – and did nothing.

Karadima was relieved of his duties by the Vatican in 2011 – but Juan Barros was installed as a bishop in 2015, amid protests.

The pope later apologised for the tone of his answer, saying he felt “pain and shame” – while maintaining he did not have enough evidence to “convict” Bishop Barros.

He was met by protesters in Santiago.

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