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Rome Reports

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Pope Francis strengthens anti-abuse regulations: laity may also be reported

Pope Francis is strengthening regulations in the fight against abuse. He recently published a new version of the Motu Proprio, "Vos estis lux mundi" published in 2019.

That same year, Pope Francis established a protocol for filing abuse charges against bishops and priests. In the updated Motu Proprio, he expands it to include lay people who are accused of committing or covering up abuse. 

In "Vos estis lux mundi," Pope Francis focuses on moderators of international associations of the faithful. He already reformed these institutions by establishing limits on their terms. The new Motu Proprio specifies that these leaders are legally required to report any form of abuse. 

The Pope clarifies that each diocese must have "offices readily accessible to the public to receive allegations of abuse." In 2019, the document simply required the presence of a "stable system." As soon as the diocesan office receives a complaint, they must communicate it to the Vatican and the bishop must initiate a preliminary investigation where the alleged events occured.

The 2019 text stated that no obligation of silence could be placed on the person reporting the alleged abuse. This updated version strengthens the safeguarding measures for witnesses.

Pope Francis stresses that "anyone can file a complaint," and encourages especially "lay people with positions in the Church" to do so. He upholds the obligation that priests and religious have to immediately report any abuse, except for those disclosed in confession.