POPE Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests in two years for molesting children, according to a report.

The statistics for 2011/12 represent the first time the Vatican has provided details on the number of priests who have been defrocked.

Prior to that, it had only revealed the number of alleged cases of sexual abuse it had received.

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The document was prepared from data the Vatican had been collecting to help the Holy See defend itself before a UN committee in Geneva this week.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's UN ambassador in Geneva, referred to just one of the statistics during hours of questioning from the UN human rights committee.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's UN ambassador in Geneva, told the committee on Thursday: "Priests are not functionaries of the Vatican. Priests are citizens of their own states, and fall under the jurisdiction of their own country."