Pope defrocks two Chilean bishops over sexual abuse allegations

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis speaks during the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis speaks during the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis has defrocked two Chilean bishops who have been caught up in the country’s widening sexual abuse crisis, the Vatican said on Saturday.

The Vatican named the two men as Francisco José Cox Huneeus, archbishop emeritus of the city of La Serena, and Marco Antonio Órdenes Fernández, archbishop emeritus of Iquique.

A Vatican statement in Spanish said the pope’s 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.

Defrocking, officially called “reduced to the lay state,” means they are no longer priests. It is the harshest punishment the Church can inflict on a member of the clergy.

Last month Francis defrocked Father Fernando Karadima, an 88-year-old Chilean priest who sexually abused teenage boys over a period of many years and is at the center of a wider abuse scandal that is still under investigation.

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