VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on Saturday named a woman molested by a priest as a child to be part of a core group to help the Catholic Church fight the clerical sexual abuse of minors that has haunted it for over two decades

The first eight members - four women and four men - hail from eight different countries and include Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, former Polish Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka and Baroness Sheila Hollins, a British psychiatrist.

The victim is Marie Collins, who was abused in her native Ireland in the 1960s and has campaigned for the protection of children and for justice for victims of clerical paedophilia.

"Pope Francis has made clear that the Church must hold the protection of minors amongst her highest priorities," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

The formation of a group of experts, initially announced in December, comes just over a month after the United Nations accused the Church of putting its reputation before the well-being of children and imposing a "code of silence" among clerics on the issue of sexual abuse.

Accusations that Pope Francis has not taken a strong enough stand against clerical sexual abuse tarnished the overwhelmingly positive reviews he received on reaching the first anniversary of his election to the papacy last week.


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