Pope Francis has defrocked two Chilean bishops who have been caught up in the countryâs widening sexual abuse crisis, the Vatican said on Saturday.
The Vatican named the two men as Francisco JosĂ© Cox Huneeus, 84, who was archbishop emeritus of the city of La Serena, and Marco Antonio Ărdenes FernĂĄndez, 53, who was archbishop emeritus of Iquique.
A Vatican statement in Spanish said the popeâs decision was definitive and not open to appeal. It referred to a part of Canon (Church) law related to the crime of sexual abuse of minors.
Pope Francis has removed Fernando Karadima from the priesthood, seven years after the Vatican found that Karadima had sexually abused minors in Chile.
Defrocking, officially called âreduced to the lay stateâ, 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.
Last month Francis defrocked Father Fernando Karadima, an 88-year-old Chilean priest who was accused of sexually abusing teenage boys over a period of many years.
Chile has been hit by one of the worst sexual abuse crises in the Catholic Church, a scandal that prompted all of the countryâs 34 bishops to offer their resignation to the pope last May. He has so far accepted seven.
Cox and Ărdenes were not among the 34 because, although they still had the clerical rank of bishop before Saturday, they were no longer running dioceses.