Pope Francis has ordered a Vatican takeover of a Catholic society in Peru whose founder is accused of sexually and physically abusing children and former group members.

The move is the latest in a saga that has damaged the reputation of the Catholic Church in Peru.

It comes a week before Francis is set to pay his first visit as Pope to that country and to Chile.

The Vatican said the Pope had appointed an administrator to run Sodalitium Christianae Vitae whose founder, Luis Figari, a layman, is scheduled to go on trial in Peru later this year for the sexual abuse of minors. Mr Figari has denied wrongdoing.

An internal report by the group last year concluded that Figari, who founded the organisation in 1971 and led it until 2010, and three other high-ranking former members, had abused 19 minors and ten adults.

The report described Figari as a charismatic, authoritarian and cult-like leader who publicly humiliated members as part of his strategy to control them.

Most of the alleged cases took place between the 1970s and 2000.

A statement on the group's website said it welcomed the Pope's intervention and promised full cooperation with his administrator.

A Vatican statement said the Pope had been following the group's situation "with worry" for years and had taken the action "after a detailed analysis of all the documentation".

It said the pope was concerned about "the gravity of information regarding the internal system, economic and financial management".