A group of United Nations human rights experts said Monday they had urged Pope Francis and the Vatican to take steps to stop child sex abuse in Catholic institutions and prevent it from happening again.
The experts called on "the Holy See to take all necessary measures to stop and prevent the recurrence of violence and sexual abuse against children in Catholic institutions, and to ensure those responsible are held to account and reparations are paid to victims."
The four special rapporteurs, who do not speak for the United Nations but report their findings to it, wrote to the Vatican on April 7.
The experts voiced their "utmost concern about the numerous allegations around the world of sexual abuse and violence committed by members of the Catholic Church against children," according to the letter released Monday.
They also said they were worried about measures adopted by the Church to "protect alleged abusers, cover up crimes, obstruct accountability of alleged abusers, and evade reparations due to victims".
They said there had been persistent allegations of obstruction and a lack of cooperation with legal proceedings to prevent accountability and reparations. The letter cited cases of sexual abuse and exploitation in nations including Germany, Belgium, France, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia.
The experts urged the Vatican to cooperate fully with law enforcement in the countries concerned, and to hold off signing agreements in order to evade accountability for Church members accused of abuse.
The group was also concerned about what it said were continued attempts to undermine legislative attempts to prosecute child sex offenders.
It called on Pope Francis to take all the measures necessary to put an end to these violations and prevent "their recurrence."
The letter was penned by the special rapporteurs on the sexual exploitation of children; on cruel and degrading treatment; on the promotion of truth, justice and reparation; and on the rights of persons with disabilities.