Spanish prosecutors said in February they were investigating 68 cases of alleged abuse. | EFE

Spain's parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the creation of an independent commission led by the country's ombudsman to investigate suspected sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests.

The commission would be a significant step for Spain, where abuse allegations are only now gaining traction years after similar scandals rocked the United States, Ireland and France.

While the vote does not automatically guarantee the commission's formation, as it still requires formal backing from the government, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez welcomed the inquiry in a Twitter post.

"The Parliament approves the creation of a commission to investigate abuses in the sphere of the Church. A first step to try to repair the pain of the victims, who had not been heard until now," he tweeted.

Felix Bolanos, the minister in charge of government relations with the Church, and Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, head of the Spanish Church, met on Thursday to discuss the issue.
"The government considers it positive for the Church, for society as a whole and, above all, for the victims, that these facts be clarified and that the Church cooperate with the investigation," a ministry statement said.

Monsignor Omella, for his part, has expressed the Church's willingness to cooperate, it added.

Spanish prosecutors said in February they were investigating 68 cases of alleged abuse, but El Pais newspaper said it had found 1,200 cases reported between 1943 and 2018.
Last month, Spain's Catholic Church sought to give more credence to its own internal investigation, saying that a law firm would coordinate and audit the effort.