Pope Francis has called for "decisive action" against sex abuse of minors by priests.
He told Bishop Gerhard Mueller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith - the Vatican agency that deals with sex abuse cases - to ensure that perpetrators were punished.
It was the new pope's first public statement on clerical sex abuse.
In his remarks on Friday, Pope Francis said combating the crisis - which has mired the Church in scandal from the United States, Ireland and Europe to Australia - was important for the credibility of the Church.
A Vatican statement said the Pope urged Bishop Mueller 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 Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests responded with scepticism, saying "actions speak louder than words".
"We must insist on new tangible action that helps vulnerable children protect their bodies, not old vague pledges that help a widely-discredited institution protect its reputation," SNAP outreach director Barbara Dorris told the BBC.