Pope Francis sets up appeals committee for priests accused of 'grave crimes'
Pope Francis (AFP)

The Vatican on Monday said it was setting up an appeals body for priests under internal investigation by the Catholic Church for alleged child sex crimes.

The new committee will be part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Church's doctrinal watchdog, which handles investigations carried out under Canon Law.

The Vatican said in a brief statement that the body would "examine appeals by clergy over grave crimes" and that Argentine archbishop Jose Luis Mollaghan would take part.

The statement did not add further details about the body.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by a wave of revelations and accusations about child sex abuse, which began in Ireland and the United States in the early 2000s.

The Vatican's ambassador to the United Nations, Silvano Tomasi, said recently that 3,420 cases based on "credible accusations" had been investigated over the past 10 years.

As a result of the investigations, he said 848 priests had been defrocked and 2,572 had been banned from public duties.

Victims' rights campaigners say the Vatican should do much more to hand over wrongdoers to law enforcement and punish senior clergy who covered up for priests for years.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]