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Pope Benedict is off to Castel Gondolfo, the papal summer residence 27 miles southeast of Vatican City, for the rest of the month. (The 136-acre estate is actually larger than Vatican’s own city-state.) Presumably, he will use this time to get some rest, after a rather harrowing “Year for Priests,” and perhaps write another book.

The Vatican is still open for business, however, as National Catholic Reporter’s John L Allen Jr. explains:

Though most business slows down in the Vatican while the pope is away, it doesn’t stop altogether. Sometime in the next few days, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is expected to release a revision of the church’s rules for handling cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. In the main, those revisions simply codify “special faculties,” or exceptions to the rules, issued in 2002 and 2003, which were intended to speed up the process of weeding abusers out of the priesthood.

Politics Daily’s David Gibson has more on the revised rules, which Benedict reportedly signed before leaving for his vacation. He thinks they will amount to “fairly minor concessions” that fall short of what victim advocates say is necessary to protect children from pedophile priests, and still fail to provide a way to deal with bishops who cover up for abusers. In a nutshell:

The new rules, which Vatican observers say could go into effect within days, will gather together norms that have been in place since 2001 to make it easier for the church to defrock or suspend priests accused of abuse. The policies were slightly modified in 2003, after another wave of sexual abuse revelations broke in the United States.

Check back for updates, and share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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