Vatican City: The Vatican`s top anti-abuse prosecutor has warned that the Catholic Church in Asia is falling behind in the fight against paedophilia due to cultural differences over what constitutes child abuse.
"The problem is very accentuated in Asia," Archbishop Charles Scicluna told reporters ahead of a major international conference this week in the Vatican`s Gregorian University on the crisis of paedophilia in the Church.
Scicluna, who addressed an unprecedented closed-door meeting on the issue with Asian Church leaders in Bangkok in November last year, added: "There is an awareness that there is abuse and something needs to be done."
The Vatican has asked national bishops` conferences from around the world to submit by May their guidelines on how to deal with abusive priests and cooperate with local law enforcement in an effort to root out abuse.
"There are some who will miss the deadline but they`ll get there in the end," said Scicluna, who as "promoter of justice" for the Vatican is charged with looking into the thousands of cases of abuse by clergy.
"In some cultures, it`s hard for victims to come forward. We are debating how to change a culture that favours silence over denunciation," he said.
Thousands of clergy abuse scandals in Europe and the United States have rocked the Catholic Church in recent years, revealing a culture of cover-up dating back decades that Church leaders say they now want to eradicate.
Far fewer cases of child abuse have come to light in other parts of the world such as Asia, Africa and Latin America, where public scandals involving financial corruption or affairs by priests with women have been more common.
One exception has been the Philippines, where the Church has apologised for abuses committed by priests over a period of 20 years and clergymen have been defrocked, although few if any have been brought to justice.
The newly-appointed Archbishop Chito Tagle of Manila, a rising star in the Catholic hierarchy, is expected to address the Vatican conference on Thursday about the particular challenges of dealing with the issue in Asia.
A pre-conference press statement said his speech would show "that sexual abuse inside and outside the Church is a global reality, not focused simply in the United States and Europe”.
"Careful consideration needs to be given to the cultural values that can foster greater transparency and cooperation as a universal church that protects the most vulnerable," it said.