ROME (AP) — The Vatican took steps Friday to better regulate lay religious movements by imposing term limits on their leaders and requiring internal elections to be representative of their memberships.

The Vatican’s laity office cracked down on the largely unregulated world of associations of the faithful after some cases of abuses of authority and bad governance had been reported.

The Vatican office oversees some 109 international lay associations, including the Neocatechumenal Way and Communion and Liberation.

In the decree published Friday and an explanatory note approved by Pope Francis, the office said the governance regulations were necessary to discourage cults of personality from growing around the founders of religious movements, to reduce conflicts among members and encourage generational renewal within the communities.

The decree imposes a once-renewable five-year term on governing positions and requires that all members have a direct or indirect vote in community elections.

The office said the norms were needed because the absence of term limits had favored “personalization, centralization and expressions of self referentiality which can easily cause serious violations of personal dignity and freedom, and even real abuses.”

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