Vatican City (AFP) - The Vatican has taken control of a Catholic movement in Peru whose founder is accused of sexual abuse, just days before the pontiff visits the country.
Pope Francis has been "following with concern" developments at the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV) and the investigation into its scandal-hit founder Luis Fernando Figari, the Vatican said Wednesday.
Figari and several other high-ranking figures in the lay organisation have been accused of the psychological and sexual abuse of minors and young adults between 1975 and 2002. In December Peruvian prosecutors called for them to be thrown in jail.
An internal SCV investigation found at least five of the top brass had "sexually abused 19 minors and 10 adults". One of those accused has since died.
"The pope has been particularly attentive to the gravity of the information about the internal governance, formation and the management of economic-financial affairs" at the SCV, the statement said.
Francis has appointed Colombian bishop Noel Antonio Londono Buitrago to take over the movement, which boasts some 20,000 members and has spread to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Italy and the United States.
The move comes a week before Francis heads to Latin America to visit Chile and Peru.
The scandal came to light in an investigative book published in 2015 by two journalists.
Figari, 70, founded the movement in 1971 with the aim of transforming teenagers into "soldiers of Christ". He currently lives in a retirement home in Rome and is forbidden by a Vatican decree from returning to Peru.