Pope Francis has defrocked two retired Chilean bishops caught up in a sexual abuse crisis rocking Chile’s Roman Catholic Church.
The Vatican named the two men as Francisco Jose Cox Huneeus and Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernandez, archbishop emeritus of the cities of La Serena and Iquique respectively.
A statement on Saturday explained that the decision was taken on Thursday and cannot be appealed.
The notice also referred to a canonical measure relating to “manifest abuse of minors” as being the reason for dismissal.
Defrocking, officially called “reduced to the lay state”, means they have been expelled from the priesthood.
It is the harshest punishment the Church can inflict on a member of the clergy and such action has rarely been taken against bishops.
In early October, the religious order to which Cox belongs, the Schoenstatt Fathers, said the Vatican was investigating an accusation against him relating to the sexual abuse of a minor in Germany in 2004.
Cox, who is believed to have returned to Germany after a period in Chile, could not be reached for comment.
According to Chilean media, Ordenes, who resigned as bishop of Iquique in 2012 while under Vatican investigation, was accused of molesting a 17-year-old altar boy.
He is believed to be living somewhere in Chile. It was not immediately possible to reach him for comment.
The announcement came shortly after Pope Francis met Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in Rome on Saturday.
Pinera said he had enjoyed a “very good, very intimate and very frank” discussion with the pontiff regarding the “difficult situation” Chile’s Catholic Church was in.
“We share a hope that the church can undergo a true rebirth and regain the affection and closeness of its followers and can continue to play an important role in our country,” he told reporters.
According to Pinera, Pope Francis — who is from neighbouring Argentina — also touched on migration, the crises in Venezuela and Nicaragua and the environment during the conversation.
The defrockings come one day after the Pope accepted the resignation of a US cardinal who was accused of covering up a sex abuse scandal in Pennsylvania. The Chronicle.