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Pope Francis reactivates sexual abuse advisory panel

By Allen Cone
Pope Francis waves to the public upon his arrival to the Nunciature in Lima, Peru, on January 18. He has reactivated his sexual abuse advisory panel. Photo by Sebastian Castaneda/EPA
Pope Francis waves to the public upon his arrival to the Nunciature in Lima, Peru, on January 18. He has reactivated his sexual abuse advisory panel. Photo by Sebastian Castaneda/EPA

Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Pope Francis has reactivated a sexual abuse advisory panel, retaining Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston as president of the panel but replacing nine members, the Vatican announced Saturday.

The 16-member Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors concluded its three-year tenure last December.

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"Representatives from several new countries will now offer their insights and experience to the Commission, reflecting the global reach of the church and the challenge of creating safeguarding structures in diverse cultural contexts," according to a Vatican news release.

The commission of eight women and eight men includes victims of clerical sexual abuse and parents of victims, the Catholic News Agency reported.

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A new member is Teresa Kettelkamp, a former colonel in the Illinois State Police who headed the U.S. Bishops' Child Protection Office from 2005 to 2011. She was hired by the commission in 2016 to develop anti-abuse guidelines.

The new panel's first meeting is scheduled for April.

"The PCPM wishes to hear the voices of victims/survivors directly, in order that the advice offered to the Holy Father be truly imbued with their insights and experiences," the release said.

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Over the last four years the commission has worked with almost 200 dioceses and religious communities worldwide "to raise awareness and educate people on the need for safeguarding in our homes, parishes, schools, hospitals, and other institutions."

A Vatican investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, was to meet Friday in New York City with Juan Carlos Cruz, who said he was sexually abused when he was a teenager in Chile by a priest named Fernando Karadima.

In an investigation by the Vatican, Karadima was found guilty in 2011 of abusing teenage boys.

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Scicluna is also looking into accusations that Chilean Bishop Juan Barros had covered up sex abuse crimes against minors committed by Karadima and others. Initially, Francis said accusations against Barros were "slander."

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