Pope speeds up priest sex abuse appeals

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has created a new commission to speed up the appeal process for priests found guilty by the Church of child sex abuse, the Vatican said Tuesday.

"The number of appeals has lead to a backlog of work," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told journalists, without specifying how many cases are currently being examined.

Speeding up the process would see sex abusers handed a definitive conviction more quickly, as well as helping innocent priests eager to clear their names.

The new commission, made up of seven cardinals and bishops, will work for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which currently oversees such appeals.

The Vatican said in May that church courts had sanctioned at least 3,430 priests and other religious figures over the past 10 years. Lombardi would not say how often the CDF overturns convictions.

The pope has not yet named the commission's members.

Their mandate will be restricted to dealing with priests, rather than appeals lodged by bishops.

Francis has sworn to take a "zero tolerance" attitude to clerical sexual abuse, a scandal which has hit the Catholic Church hard and is estimated by victims organisations to have affected tens of thousands of people.