ROME —

Pope Francis sent another message to Vatican-based cardinals and bishops about his intent to hold them accountable for criminal misconduct: He removed the legal obstacles that had prevented the Vatican's criminal tribunal from prosecuting them.

A new law published Friday makes clear that Vatican city-state prosecutors have jurisdiction over cardinals and bishops and need only the pope's consent to proceed with investigations against them.

The law abrogated a 2020 regulation that said only the tribunal's highest appeals court, which is composed of three cardinal judges, could assess the actions of cardinals and bishops accused of criminal offenses.

The reform is the latest sign that after eight years of preaching about ending corruption and other criminal activity in the Holy See, Francis is taking concrete steps to hold his own cardinals and bishops accountable.