By MARI YAMAGUCHI Associated Press

TOKYO — The Catholic Church in Japan is preparing to investigate allegations of sexual abuse against minors by its priests, including accusations from 20 years ago, officials said Thursday.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Japan said it has established a committee in each diocese to take claims and consultations related to sexual abuse but investigation details haven’t been decided.

The Tokyo-based conference said past surveys found two reported cases in 2002 and five in 2012, which weren’t verified or intended for disclosure. Those past cases will be investigated, including whether alleged abusers were punished and how bishops responded to the victims, the conference said in an email responding to inquiries.

The decision comes after Pope Francis convened a bishops’ summit in February in response to worldwide scandals involving Catholic clergy. He is expected to visit Japan in November in the first papal visit to the country since John Paul II in 1981.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Japan said in its statement that the 2002 survey involved confidential inquiries to the head priest in each diocese, while the 2012 survey was intended as a reference in compiling a manual for internal use, rather than as a fact-finding investigation or to resolve the problem.

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