Europe

Vatican to issue guidelines on sex abuse

Cardinals take shelter from the rain as they leave a meeting at the Vatican, 19 November 2010
Image caption The Pope is to elevate 24 new cardinals in a ceremony on Saturday

The Vatican has said it will issue guidelines on how to combat sexual abuse, which will be circulated to bishops around the world.

Work was being done for "guidelines to offer for a coordinated and efficient programme" against abuse, the Vatican said.

Pope Benedict has been taking part in a rare, closed-door meeting of about 150 cardinals from around the world.

He is due to elevate 24 new cardinals at a ceremony later on Saturday.

Twenty of the new "red hats" are under the age of 80 and would thus be eligible to elect his successor in a secret vote.

'Media storm'

There has been a wave of cases in which Church authorities in Europe, Australia and North and South America failed to deal properly with priests accused of child abuse, sometimes just moving them to new parishes where more children were put at risk.

Cardinal William Levada, who led Friday's discussion at the Vatican, spoke of the need to listen to victims, to work together with law enforcement and to make a careful selection of future priests.

But the US-based abuse victims group, Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), said it was disappointed by the meeting, saying the Church should stop making "symbolic gestures".

"We didn't have high hopes for this meeting because these church officials are the same men who ignored and concealed," Snap said in a statement.

The group also called on the Church to release files on the abuses and those who covered up for the crimes.

Some cardinals have criticised the attention given to the sex abuse scandal.

"I'm tired of talking about this topic," Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan told reporters after the talks.

"I've had it up to here... It's a real media storm."

This is the third consistory - or assembly of cardinals - since Pope Benedict was elected Pope in April 2005.

All 179 living cardinals would only be expected to gather for a conclave - the meeting following the death or abdication of a pope to elect his successor.

But Pope Benedict has attempted to create more opportunities for the cardinals to discuss important issues, especially as those under 80 - 121 after Saturday's consistory - would be tasked with choosing his successor.

The event has been described by analysts as a pre-conclave, enabling the cardinals to see who could potentially succeed the German Pope.

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