The International Criminal Court has been formally asked to investigate Pope Benedict for alleged crimes against humanity.
Papers have been lodged by two groups alleging the Pontiff and a number of Vatican officials "tolerated and enabled" the cover up of clerical child sexual abuse.
The papers were lodged at the International Criminal Court in the Hague today by the " the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" and the New-York based "Centre for Constitutional Rights".
The groups have requested that the ICC investigates Pope Benedict the 16th and three top Vatican officials for crimes against humanity for allowing rape and child sex crimes.
The groups say more than 20,000 pages of reports, policy papers and evidence of crimes by Catholic clergy committed against children and vulnerable adults has been submitted.
However, it is thought unlikely that the Hague-based court will take on the case, as it does not have jurisdiction in the Vatican.
A spokesman for the Holy See has said there would be no immediate comment.