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Pope Francis

Pope Francis has quietly reduced some of the sanctions against paedophile priests, it has been revealed.

He has done this by granting clemency to priests that have been convicted of abusing children.

An Italian priest who received the Pope’s clemency was later convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against children as young as 12.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Fr Mauro Inzoli is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him.

The Inzoli case is one of several in which Francis overruled the advice of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and reduced a sentence that called for the priest to be laicised, two canon lawyers and a Church official told the AP.

If a priest is laicised, it means that he is no longer accepted as a member of the clergy.

Instead, the Pope ordered that the convicted priests should simply be ordered to pray for forgiveness for their sins.

A church official who asked for anonymity because of the confidential nature of the proceedings, said that in some cases, the priests or their high-ranking friends appealed to Francis for clemency by citing the Pope’s own words about mercy in their petitions.

The church official added: “With all this emphasis on mercy … he is creating the environment for such initiatives.”

At the same time, Francis also ordered three longtime staffers at the CDF to be dismissed, two of whom worked for the discipline section that handles sex abuse cases.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that even those who commit the worst crimes should be forgiven.

He said: “The Holy Father understands that many victims and survivors can find any sign of mercy in this area difficult. But he knows that the Gospel message of mercy is ultimately a source of powerful healing and of grace.”

Although Pope Francis has repeatedly said there will be “zero tolerance” for child abusers, he also recently said he believed sex abusers suffer from a “disease” – a medical term used by defence lawyers to seek mitigating factors in canonical sentences.

Francis also scrapped plans for a proposed tribunal that would investigate bishops who botch abuse cases following legal objections from the congregation.

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