The Vatican issued tougher, comprehensive laws Friday governing the sexual abuse of minors within the Vatican City State, Vatican offices and its diplomatic embassies abroad.
Pope Francis personally signed off on the new legislation that includes mandatory reporting of potential sexual abuse cases to Vatican authorities and the automatic dismissal of any employee found guilty of sexual abuse against minors.
The new laws also raise the statute of limitations for reporting a crime to 20 years following the 18th birthday of an alleged victim. The previous law was four years from the date of the alleged crime.
The move comes in the wake of the Vatican’s unprecedented summit last month in Rome to confront the Catholic Church’s clergy abuse scandal.
Potential employees of the Vatican will now also undergo a special screening process to ensure they are fit to work with children.
“The Holy Father hopes that thanks to these norms which pertain to Vatican City State and the Roman Curia, everyone might develop in their awareness that the church must always be ever increasingly a safe home for children and vulnerable persons,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said in a statement.
In 2013, Francis updated the Vatican City’s laws to include criminalizing sexual violence against minors. This is the first time, however, that the Vatican has created a comprehensive and specific set of procedures and laws to follow regarding child sexual abuse for the Vatican City State and its offices abroad.
About 800 people live in Vatican City, and some 450 have Vatican citizenship, according to the Vatican. An estimated 5,000 priests, nuns and laypeople work for the Vatican in Rome and in its embassies abroad.
The new laws go into effect on June 1.