(Newly-ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Malta Charles Scicluna (C) is congratulated by fellow bishops during his ordination ceremony at St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta November 24, 2012.  REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi )

Pope Francis will not show leniency towards pedophile priests because truth and justice are more important than protecting the Church, the Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor has said.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the most authoritative Catholic official on the Church’s abuse crisis, also told Reuters that the number of clerics defrocked by the Vatican was likely to have fallen to about 100 in 2013 from about 125 in 2012.

Scicluna said Francis, despite his merciful nature, would be very tough on pedophile priests after an abuse crisis that the pope on Thursday called “the shame of the Church.”

“I have met with Francis and he has expressed great determination to continue on the line of his predecessors,” said Scicluna, who served in the Vatican for 17 years before he was named an auxiliary bishop in his native Malta in 2012.