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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?

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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