Pope Francis told his staff to take "decisive action" when it comes to cases of clerical sex abuse of minors.
In a statement, the Vatican said the pontiff ordered the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to "act decisively as far as cases of sexual abuse are concerned, promoting, above all, measures to protect minors, help for those who have suffered such violence in the past (and) the necessary procedures against those who are guilty."
The BBC reports this was the new pope's first public statement on the issue, which has plagued the church for years.
The BBC reports:
"When first elected, Benedict XVI promised to rid his Church of the 'filth' of clerical sex abuse, but critics accused him of covering up abuse in the past and failing to protect children from paedophile priests.
"Victims of sex abuse by clergy had called for a strong response from the new pontiff to the crisis that has rocked the Church.
"In his remarks on Friday, Pope Francis said combating the crisis - which has mired the Church in scandal from the US, Ireland and Europe to Australia - was important for the credibility of the Church."
The advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests dismissed Pope Francis' statement.
"Big deal," the group said in a statement, adding that this is not the first time "a top Catholic official says he's asking another top Catholic official to take action about pedophile priests and complicit bishops."
"Actions speak louder than words," the statement goes on. "And one of the first actions Pope Francis took was to visit perhaps the most high profile corrupt prelate on the planet – Cardinal Bernard Law – who remains a powerful church official despite having been drummed out of Boston for hiding and enabling crimes by hundreds of child molesting clerics."