Pope Benedict has told bishops around the world to promptly report all suspected cases of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests to local police.
He has set out new guidelines in the latest effort to eradicate child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, the BBC reports.
His letter incorporates sweeping revisions made last year to the Church's laws on sexual abuse.
But victims' groups are critical of the move, saying it does not go far enough.
The letter is intended to help every diocese draw up its own guidelines, based on a global approach but in line with local criminal law.
The Catholic Church in New Zealand says it will not need to change its policies
The New Zealand church's director for Professional Standards, John Jamieson, says the letter deals with offending against people aged under 18 who make a complaint within 20 years.
He says the church here would take that sort of case to the police immediately.
In the past 30 years, he says, the church had reports only of historic abuse, from as long ago as 75 years. In these cases, the complainant is advised to go to the police if the person they're complaining about is still alive.