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Pope's ex-sex crimes prosecutor to advise Vatican

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NICOLE WINFIELD | December 1, 2012 12:11 PM EST | AP

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican's former sex crimes prosecutor, who was recently named a bishop in Malta, is keeping a foot in his old office.

The pope on Saturday named Bishop Charles Scicluna a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Scicluna had been based at the congregation for 10 years as its chief prosecutor, or promoter of justice, investigating clerical sex abuse cases and earning the respect of victims and even some of the Vatican's toughest critics for his hard line against pedophile priests.

As a member of the congregation now, Scicluna will sit alongside the two dozen cardinals and handful of bishops who judge the abuse cases that come before the office.

Scicluna's October appointment as an auxiliary bishop in his native Malta had raised alarm that the Vatican might be backing off his hard line on abuse and forcing him out. Scicluna insisted that was not the case and his appointment Saturday makes clear he'll remain very much involved.

The future of his office, however, remains unclear. The pope hasn't named a replacement prosecutor. In an interview with The Associated Press on the eve of his departure, Scicluna expressed full confidence in the 10 priests who worked under him and made clear that even with him gone, the Vatican now has a comprehensive law in place to prosecute any clergy who would molest a child.

But he noted rumors that the work of his office might someday shift to the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, which oversees diocesan priests and which seems to be consolidating power of late. Recently, the pope shifted oversight of seminaries to the congregation, which for decades had been on the frontlines of defending accused pedophile priests rather than pursuing canonical prosecutions against them.

"Some people say it (competence over abuse cases) should go to clergy, for example," Scicluna said. "I don't think that's mature. But I wouldn't worry if it had to migrate to some other place because now the law is set."

His old office would regardless remain involved since it's a tribunal in its own right and would ultimately judge abuse cases that came before the Vatican.

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