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Pope increases punishment for child abuse crimes in Vatican

Pope Francis signed a law that broadens the scope of punishment for sexual crimes against children and money laundering in the Vatican city state.

Clone of Pope Francis Lampedusa July 2013Enlarge
Pope Francis (C) signed legislation making it a crime to abuse children sexually or physically on Vatican grounds. (Alessandro Tarantino/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis tightened laws on crimes that include the physical or sexual abuse of children on Vatican grounds.

Crimes now punishable under the legislation include child pornography, child prostitution, sexual acts or violence against children.

The law covers crimes that are already outlawed, but specifically applies them to officials and employees of the Vatican city state Roman Curia, where hundreds of people currently live and work.

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It also includes a provision that makes it possible to indict those individuals for crimes committed beyond the grounds of the Vatican city state.

Francis also issued a "Motu Proprio," or a decree of his own initiative, to crack down on money laundering and terrorism in an effort to align the Vatican with current international laws.

The new legislation, which takes some of its wording from the Geneva Conventions, holds the Vatican to some international legal standards on issues such as war crimes, racial discrimination and "humiliating treatment or punishment."

The changes come amid a number of recent sex abuse and corruption scandals plaguing the Vatican, as Francis continues to overhaul its legal system.

The laws go into effect on September 1.