According to a statement released in Spanish by the Vatican on Saturday, Francisco Jose Cox Huneeus, 85, archbishop emeritus of the city of La Serena, and Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernandez, 54, archbishop emeritus of Iquique, were “reduced to the lay state,” meaning that they are no longer priests.
The statement said the decision was based on an article of Canon (of the Roman Catholic Church) law related to the crime of sexual abuse of minors, Presstv Reported.
It added that the pontiff had adopted the definitive decision on Thursday and it “does not admit appeal.”
The decision is the harshest punishment the Catholic Church can take against a member of the clergy and such action has rarely been taken against bishops.
Last month, Pope also defrocked Father Fernando Karadima, an 88-year-old Chilean priest, who sexually abused teenage male minors over a period of many years and is at the center of a wider abuse scandal that is still under investigation.
Back in May, all 34 bishops in Chile in a letter urged Pope Francis to accept their resignations over an infamous child sex scandal and cover-up, asking for forgiveness from victims and the Roman Catholic Church for their “grave error and omissions.”
The Roman Catholic Church has been hit by numerous scandals in the past few years, involving allegations of covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests.
Pope Francis, who was appointed in 2013 with a mandate to overhaul the Vatican, has warned that there will be “no privileges” for bishops when it comes to child sex offenses. The pontiff has also promised more action in response to accusations of cover-up and excessive leniency by the Vatican.
In addition to Chile, the Catholic Church is facing sexual abuse scandals in other countries including the United States, Australia and Germany.