Pope defrocks two Chilean bishops over child abuse claims

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Chile's President Sebastian Pinera (R) listens to Pope Francis (L) as the pontiff receives him in a private audience at the Vatican, 13 October 2018Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Pope Francis, left, met Chile's President Sebastian Piñera at the Vatican on Saturday

Pope Francis has stripped two Chilean bishops of their duties as priests amid claims that they are linked to the sexual abuse of minors.

They are Francisco José Cox Huneeus, archbishop emeritus of La Serena, and Marco Antonio Órdenes Fernández, archbishop emeritus of Iquique.

The Vatican issued a statement on their defrocking after a meeting between the pontiff and the president of Chile.

The decision could not be appealed against, it said on Saturday.

It was announced as Pope Francis met Chile's President Sebastian Piñera in the Vatican, where the two spoke particularly about "the painful scourge of abuse of minors".

More than 100 Catholic clergy are being investigated in Chile over alleged sex crimes and attempts to cover them up.

All 34 of Chile's bishops offered their resignations to the Pope in May over the scandal. The pontiff accepted three resignations in June.

Police have raided offices and seized Church documents in the capital Santiago and the city of Rancagua as part of their investigation.

In September Pope Francis defrocked former priest Fernando Karadima, 88, for having sexually abused minors.

Image source, Reuters
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Karadima had previously been sanctioned to a lifetime of "penance and prayer"

The move to defrock the two Chilean archbishops came a day after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Washington DC archbishop Donald Wuerl, who has been criticised for his handling of sexual abuse cases.

A Pennsylvania grand jury report on sex abuse released in August said he had allowed accused priests to be reassigned or reinstated.

He will reportedly retain his title of cardinal and continue in his role until a successor is found.

Allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy worldwide continue to affect the Church.

Image source, Getty Images
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Donald Wuerl: Criticised for helping conceal sexual abuse

Most of the victims were boys, and more than half were aged 13 or younger.

And in July, Australian Catholic archbishop Philip Wilson was sentenced to 12 months in detention for concealing historic child sexual abuse - the most senior Catholic globally to be convicted of the crime.

Pope Francis recently condemned the "atrocities" of child abuse in a letter to the world's 1.2bn Roman Catholics, addressed to the "people of God".