Pope Francis has approved the creation of a tribunal to hear cases of bishops accused of covering up child abuse by paedophile priests.
The unprecedented move followed a recommendation from the Pope’s newly-created panel on clerical sex abuse.
Victims’ groups have long called for the Vatican to do more to make bishops accountable for abuse on their watch.
Last year, the UN strongly criticised the Vatican for failing to stamp out child abuse and for allowing cover-ups.
A statement from the Vatican said the department would come under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Its aim would be “to judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors”, the statement added.
The Vatican panel which recommended the step was created to help dioceses improve abuse prevention measures and help victims.