Pope Francis will set up a Vatican committee to fight abuse of children in the Catholic Church and offer help to victims.
The announcement, by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, follows a meeting between Pope Francis and his eight cardinal advisers.
It comes days after the Vatican refused a UN request for information on alleged abuse by priests, nuns or monks.
Pope Francis has said dealing with abuse is vital for the Church’s credibility.
Earlier this week the Pope expressed his compassion for the many victims of abuse by priests around the world.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley said the proposed panel of experts could provide codes of conduct for clergymen, guidelines for Church officials and better checks for would-be priests.
“Up until now there has been so much focus on the judicial parts of this but the pastoral part is very, very important. The Holy Father is concerned about that,” he said.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley added that the move was in line with the approach of the former Pope, Benedict XVI, who referred to the “filth” in the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict was, however, accused of failing to do enough to address the problem.
He said the new committee was suggested by the council of cardinals, which was convened to discuss reforms to the Catholic Church, and Pope Francis approved it on Thursday, according to AFP news agency.
The archdiocese of Boston was the centre of a child abuse scandal involving Catholic priests in the US in 2002. It ultimately led to the resignation of the archbishop at the time.
The Catholic Church has faced a raft of allegations of child abuse by priests around the world and criticism over inadequate responses by bishops.
Earlier this year the Pope strengthened Vatican laws on child abuse, broadening the definition of crimes against minors to include abuse of children.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child put a wide-ranging questionnaire to the Holy See – the city state’s diplomatic entity – last July, asking for detailed information about the particulars of all abuse cases notified to the Vatican since 1995.
The Vatican refused, saying the cases were the responsibility of the judicial systems of countries where abuse took place.
Vatican officials are due to be questioned about child abuse, among other issues, by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in January.