Vatican City - Pope Francis on Thursday bolstered criminal legislation against child abuse in the Vatican and increased criminal liability for employees of the tiny city state in a legislative overhaul.
The Vatican said in a statement that the pope's decree included "a broader definition of the category of crimes against minors" including child prostitution, sexual acts with children and child pornography.
The new laws are part of an introduction of forms of crime indicated in international conventions that the Vatican has already ratified including against racism and war crimes and on children's rights.
"While many of the specific criminal offences included in these laws are undeniably new, it would however be incorrect to assume that the forms of conduct thereby sanctioned were previously licit," said Monsignor Dominique Mamberti, who is in charge of relations between the Holy See and other states.
"These were indeed punished, but as broader, more generic forms of criminal activity," it added.
Francis also increased co-operation with other states against money laundering and terrorism in a continuation of reforms begun by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, to get the Vatican in line with international legislation.
The new norms also introduce the administrative responsibility of Vatican departments - a potentially radical change that would complement his plans to root out corruption from the scandal-ridden Vatican bureaucracy.
The pope's reform "extends the reach of the legislation contained in these criminal laws to the members, officials and employees of the various bodies of the Roman Curia", the central body of the Catholic Church, Mamberti said.
"This extension has the aim of making the crimes included in these laws indictable by the judicial organs of Vatican City State even when committed outside the borders of the state," he said.
The laws will come into force on 1 September.
The Vatican explained some of the provisions in its criminal code were "rather dated". Among the novelties is that life imprisonment will be outlawed and replaced with a maximum sentence of 35 years.
There was also a direct consequence of the "Vatileaks" scandal last year when Benedict's butler Paolo Gabriele published confidential documents from Vatican offices alleging widespread corruption and mismanagement.
Punishment will be increased for anyone stealing secret papers.