VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on Tuesday issued sweeping changes to the way the Roman Catholic Church deals with cases of sexual abuse of minors, abolishing the rule of "pontifical secrecy" that previously covered them.
Two documents issued by the Pope cover practices that have been in place for some time in some countries, including reporting suspicion of sex abuse to civil authorities where required by law.
The documents also forbid imposing an obligation of silence on those who report sex abuse or allege to have been a victim.
The lifting of "pontifical secrecy" in cases of sex abuse investigations was a key demand by Church leaders at a summit on sexual abuse held at the Vatican in February.
One of the documents also raises to 18 or under from 14 or under the age that pictures of individuals can be considered child pornography "for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology."
Both of the documents issued on Tuesday are known as rescriptums, where the Pope uses his authority to rewrite specific articles of canon law or parts of previous Papal documents.