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Pope decrees bishops must be directly accountable for sex abuse or cover-ups

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Source :Reuters

Pope Francis issued a landmark decree on Thursday making bishops directly accountable for sexual abuse or covering it up, requiring clerics to report any cases to Church superiors and allowing anyone to complain directly to the Vatican if needed.

Tackling sexual abuses that have battered the Catholic Church’s reputation has been a major challenge for Francis since his 2013 election, with victims demanding a crackdown on bishops at the diocese level accused of concealing or mismanaging cases.

The papal change in Church law, covering abuse of children and adults alike, also obliges every diocese worldwide to set up simple, accessible reporting systems and encourages local churches to involve lay experts in investigations.

Francis’s edict obliges the world’s one million priests and nuns to report all suspicion of sexual abuse by clerics of any level. Before, it was just a matter of individual conscience as to whether to report cases.

It calls for whistleblower protection, saying bishops with conflicts of interest should recuse themselves from investigations and that bishops can also be held accountable for abuse of power in sexual relations with adults.

Former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was expelled from the Roman Catholic priesthood last February after he was found guilty of sexual crimes against minors and adults, including forcing seminarians to sleep with him.

“We have said for years that priests should follow certain strict rules, so why should bishops and other members of the Church hierarchy be exempt?” said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops.

The decree also allows victims or their representatives to report alleged abuses by bishops directly to the Vatican or a Vatican ambassador, bypassing diocesan procedures that have been discredited by multiple instances of cover-ups.

But the decree does not alter Vatican policy that clerics should follow local law as to whether they are mandated to report alleged sexual abuse to civil authorities.

REPORTING LAWS VARY

Victim’s groups and their advocates have called for the Vatican to make reporting of suspected abuse to police mandatory but the Holy See says Church law cannot override local civil law because the latter varies around the world.

The papal edict says the “norms apply without prejudice to the rights and obligations established in each place by state laws, particularly those concerning any reporting obligations to the competent civil authorities”.

Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s top sexual crimes investigator, told reporters that the purpose of that section was to mandate priests and nuns to report abuse within the Church even in countries – including several in Latin America – where they are not obliged by civil law to do so.

The 19-article decree, called “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (You Are the Light of the World), raises to 18 from 16 the age of adulthood in cases of sexual abuse. It also covers possession of child pornography.

The edict came three months after Francis summoned the heads of all national bishops conferences to Rome in February for a crisis summit on sexual abuse.

A spate of abuse scandals has battered Church credibility around the world and forced some dioceses to declare bankruptcy because of billions of dollars paid in settlements with victims.

The decree, whose preparation was reported first by Reuters in April, sets time limits for local investigations and the Vatican’s response to them and allows for retroactive reporting.

The decree further says local clerics cannot order those who report abuse to remain silent and that senior bishops should make provisions to prevent documents from being destroyed by subordinates if needed.

Many local Catholic Churches have been hit by sex abuse scandals since they erupted on a large scale in Boston in 2002 with revelations that Church leaders there had moved sexual abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Barcelona appoints ‘Valdes’ to coach their youth team

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The Spanish giant ‘Barcelona’ has appointed their legendary star victor Valdes to coach U19A team.

The Spaniard picked up UEFA A and B coaching licences after retiring from football last year and has now reunited with the Blaugrana

The 37-year-old racked up 539 appearances for Barca across all competitions over the course of 12 seasons between 2002 and 2014, winning 21 major titles in total.

Valdes picked up three Champions Leagues, six La Liga titles and won the Copa del Rey twice, earning legendary status at the club while also establishing himself as one of the finest shot-stoppers in Europe.

Barcelona released the following statement on their official website: “Victor Valdes is back at FC Barcelona after signing a contract on Friday morning to become the new head coach of the U19A team. The agreement binds him to the club until June 2020, with the option for an extension by one additional season.

The Spanish born has been enjoying with ED Moratalaz role in the fifth tier of Spanish football before Barcelona reach an agreement with him.

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24 Hours Across Africa

BMW and Tencent to team-up in developing self-driving cars

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(Reuters) – German automaker BMW (BMWG.DE) and Chinese online gaming giant Tencent Holdings (0700.HK) are teaming up to launch a computing center in China that will help develop self-driving cars in the world’s biggest auto market, the companies said on Friday.

The computing center, which will start operations by the end of the year, will provide cars with data-crunching capabilities to help them drive semi-autonomously and, eventually, autonomously.

The two companies did not disclose the investment in the center. Sources familiar with the deal said the center will be built in the eastern city of Tianjin.

The establishment of the center “will support BMW’s autonomous driving development and innovation in China,” Jochen Goller, head of BMW’s China operations, said in a statement.

“BMW can, therefore, develop autonomous driving solutions that fit better with the specific driving conditions in China.”

BMW said the new computing center will leverage Tencent’s cloud computing and big data, and provide the automaker with infrastructure needed to develop the autonomous cars.

The Munich-headquartered automaker says it will likely introduce semi-autonomous, or L3 classification, cars in China in 2021 which would need massive computing power to analyze real-time flow of digital information on road and traffic conditions.

Driverless cars need sophisticated data-crunching capabilities as they rely on so-called artificial-intelligence, or neuro-network technology, to help them “learn” from experience and could eventually drive themselves without human intervention.

BMW’s planned Chinese computing center follows the opening earlier this year of a similar computing center in Munich.

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