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UN rapporteur praises pope for reform of abuse secrecy

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The U.N. expert on child sexual abuse praised the Vatican’s decision to abolish the rule of “pontifical secret” for abuse cases and urged further reforms to ensure more justice for victims.

The U.N. special rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children said Thursday that Pope Francis’ decision to make such cases subject to ordinary confidentiality in the church was a “welcome and long-awaited step.”

Francis passed the law Tuesday, and Vatican officials said the move was designed to facilitate cooperation with civil law enforcement agencies, given it would deprive church leaders of using the pontifical secret as an excuse to withhold documentation.

“The Vatican should now take all necessary measures to ensure that justice and redress for victims around the world is delivered through prompt and thorough investigations that are subject to public scrutiny," said the U.N. rapporteur, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio.

Special rapporteurs are part of the U.N. human rights council. The Holy See is a party to various U.N. human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2014, the U.N. committee overseeing implementation of the convention harshly criticized the Vatican’s handling of abuse cases, saying its “code of silence” had fueled the scandal. It called for all abusers to be removed and for mandatory reporting of allegations to police. The Vatican has refused to make a mandatory reporting law, arguing that church officials could be persecuted in places where Catholics are a threatened minority.

De Boer-Buquicchio noted that in the wake of the 30th anniversary of the rights convention, it is “crucial for the Catholic Church to live up to its responsibilities, at every level of its hierarchy.”

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