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Catholic Church

Vatican faces UN panel on child sex abuse cases

Vatican envoys have appeared before a UN panel to answer questions over a wave of child sex abuse cases involving Catholic clergy. The Vatican has been challenged with allegations that it tried to cover up the abuse.

The Vatican before the UN

Envoys of the Holy See appeared in Geneva before a UN human rights panel to answer questions over its implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Roman Catholic Church has been accused of attempting to cover up the sexual abuse of children by priests in order to protect its reputation.

At the beginning of the hearing Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's representative in Geneva, told the committee that "such crimes can never be justified" no matter where they are committed.

The Holy See ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 which calls for participants to take all appropriate measures to protect children from harm. However, after the Vatican submitted its first implementation report in 1994, it then proceeded not to provide progress reports for nearly a decade. The church finally provided one in 2012 after coming under renewed pressure following an increase in alleged child sex abuse cases within the church in Europe in 2010.

Previous questions left unanswered

Ahead of the session, the Committee on the Rights of the Child had submitted a list of questions to the church but the Vatican balked at some of the queries.

The Vatican wrote back that it was not responsible for church institutions or their employees in other countries and that "every person must comply with the laws in the state in which they live."

It also said it would not release the details of its internal investigations into abuse cases unless required to do so by a state or government.

In early 2012, US Cardinal William Levada said that more than 4,000 cases of the sexual abuse of children had been reported to the Vatican since 2002.

In response to public outrage at the alleged abuse, Pope Francis set up a committee in December to develop codes of professional conduct for clergymen, as well as guidelines for other church officials on how to deal with suspected misconduct.

In September, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, published a letter denying having covered up any reports of abuse.

hc/pfd (AP, dpa)

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