The Vatican's long-time sex abuse prosecutor has been named to head up a new Vatican board to hear appeals by priests accused of molesting minors.

Bishop Charles Scicluna, currently an auxiliary bishop in his native Malta, will head the panel, which also includes some of the Vatican's most senior and seasoned canon lawyers.

Pope Francis in November announced the creation of the panel to speed up the Vatican's review of appeals of priests sanctioned for abuse. In recent years, the Vatican has been receiving on average 400-500 accusations a year, significantly increasing the caseload of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Scicluna was the congregation's sex crimes prosecutor from 2002-2012 and was responsible for cracking down on abusive priests with tougher new laws.