Japan Catholic Church to begin investigating sex abuse cases

The Catholic Church in Japan is preparing to investigate allegations of sexual abuse against minors by its priests, including accusations from 20 years ago, amid widening pedophilia scandals.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference in Japan said Thursday it has established a committee per district but details of an investigation haven't been decided.

The conference said surveys found two reported cases in 2002 and five in 2015, which weren't disclosed or verified. It said they will be retroactively investigated.

The decision comes after Pope Francis convened a bishops' summit in February to press responses to worldwide scandals.

He is expected to visit Japan in November in the first papal visit to the country since John Paul II in 1981.

Japan's Catholic community is about 440,000, or 0.3 percent of the population.