Italy's Roman Catholic Church says it will help to bring paedophile priests to justice after the country's bishops ruled that it was right to do so under Canon law.
The Italian Conference of Bishops stressed concern for the victims of sexual abuse and their families as they met in Rome to address the widening scandal embroiling the Church in Europe and the US.
‘The key to searching for the truth is to enforce the procedures and penal rules of Canon law with rigour and transparency,’ the episcopal conference said in a statement after the talks.
But the bishops also decided the rules of the Church Canon ‘are not in contradiction to - and indeed converge with - honest collaboration with the state authorities charged with establishing the truth.’
The Roman Catholic Church has been thrown into crisis in recent weeks as dozens of people came forward alleging they were abused as minors by priests.
Scandals have erupted in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland, while Ireland and the US have been hit by claims of a Church cover-up of abuse committed decades ago.
The Italian bishops stressed the need to choose candidates for the priesthood with care, including by ‘assessing their human and emotional maturity.’
But they also said they remained in favour of priestly celibacy, dismissing suggestions that it be may be a contributing factor in abuse cases.
‘Celibacy is not about stifling or disabling sexuality, but rather, especially in our day, an alternative and humanly rich way of living out one's humanity by giving oneself entirely to Christ and the Church,’ they argued.
The Vatican has said it received 3,000 reports between 2001 and 2010 of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy committed over the past 50 years.