Pope Benedict XVI has asked the bishops across the world to fight child abuse by reporting such incidents to the local police.

In his letter to bishops, he said, Sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical delict but also a crime prosecuted by civil law. He suggested the bishops to take immediate steps to address assaults against minorities and asked them to follow local laws while reporting the crime.

The responsibility for dealing with crimes of sexual abuse of minors by clerics belongs in the first place to the diocesan bishop to protect minors and to help victims in finding assistance and reconciliation,” he said.

The new set of rules was proposed after serious damages to the church involving cardinal staff in the United States, Europe, Germany, Ireland, Austria and the Netherlands.

Recently, in Philadelphia four priests and a parochial school teacher were charged of conspiracy for sexual abuse. About 23 priests in the Philadelphia area alone have been placed on administrative leave.

The Vatican says only a tiny percentage of priests abuse children, and that it is taking steps to fight the problem, including defrocking priests or forcing them into positions where they do not have contact with the public.

The new guidelines gives time to the bishops until May next year to propose their own guidelines on how to handle allegations of abuse.