The Church in Wales has launched a major review into past allegations of child abuse in a bid to protect the young people in its midst into the future, and ensure appropriate action.
Bishops in the Church commissioned the review to look specifically at past allegations or suspicions of child abuse which predate the Church’s Child Protection Policy.
The Church has also set up a confidential telephone helpline with the help of children's charity NSPCC for people who feel they may have been affected or have information to share regarding instances of child abuse within the Church.
The review, expected to last a year, will be carried out by an independent social worker from the office of the Children's Commissioner who will examine the files of serving and retired priests as well as lay office holders.
The Church said suspected cases of abuse would be forwarded to an internal safeguarding panel for consideration.
The launch of the review follows the case of Richard Hart, the Vicar of Beguildy, near Knighton in Powys, who was jailed last year for possessing 57,000 indecent images of children
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said: "We want to make sure the Church in Wales is a safe place for our children to grow up in and to be nourished in the Christian faith. Caring for them and protecting them is of paramount importance to us – whether they come to us through worship, Sunday schools, choirs or clubs.
“It’s a difficult area to address - and we sincerely hope little will emerge - but our approach will be professional and thorough, underlining our commitment and ensuring we have done everything we possibly can to keep our children safe.”
Keith Towler, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, added his support. He said, “Every organisation working with children and young people has a duty to establish and regularly review its child protection procedures.
“I welcome the Church in Wales’ pledge to prioritise a review of its child protection policy and also its obvious commitment to safeguarding all children and young people involved in the Church community.”
The free NSPCC helpline will operate between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Friday, running alongside the existing NSPCC Cymru/Wales service which provides help to anyone concerned about the welfare of a child.
Head of NSPCC Helpline, John Cameron, said, "We're very pleased to be able to offer our support to the review in this way.
“We will be working to ensure that any information we receive that is relevant to the enquiry will be shared with the necessary other statutory agencies who will be working closely with the independent reviewing social worker.
“This will ensure that any outstanding concerns for the welfare of children are assessed and appropriate action taken."
The NSPCC Helpline number is 0800 7317466