Aanalyst says the number of defrocked priests fell to about 100 in 2013, after peaking at about 260 in 2011.
VATICAN (JANUARY 19, 2014) (REUTERS) - In an interview with Reuters on Suturday (January 18) the most authoritative Catholic official on the Church's abuse crisis, said that the number of clerics defrocked by the Vatican was likely to have fallen.
"It usually means about 50 per cent of these priests are actively defrocked, that is that they are dismissed for sex crimes, for child abuse. The other 50 percent are people who are sexual abusers, but they themselves have admitted to their crimes and asked to be dispensed from their vows," Pullella added.
Vatican officials have long played down abuse scandals, but revelations in the United States,Ireland and several European countries has turned it into a crisis that has plagued the Catholic church in recent years.
Pope Francis' predecessor Pope Benedict publicly apologised for the crimes committed by priests.
Visitors to the Vatican were pleased that the Church seemed to be taking stronger action on the subject than in previous times.
"I believe that the Church has understood that they cannot go forward like this. I think with this new era of Francis, and maybe a bit with Ratzinger, they are taking fresh initiatives because it is too much to put up with," added Milovack Milo.
"What do I hope? I hope that it never happens again, but that's life, isn't it? It does happen, very, very sadly," said English tourist Mary Selby who had come to see the Pope conducting the Angelus Prayer.
In December 2013, Pope Francis ordered the formation of a team of experts to investigate the sexual abuse of minors in the Church, in his first major step to tackle a crisis that has plagued it for two decades.
The group will consider ways to better screen priests, protect minors and help victims in the face of charges the Vatican has not done enough to guard the vulnerable or make amends.
Victims groups have said more has to be done to protect children and that bishops who have been accused of covering up crimes by shuttling priests from parish to parish should be held accountable.