SANTIAGO – The Archdiocese of Santiago welcomed on Friday Pope Francis’s decision to defrock a prominent Chilean priest convicted of sexual abuse by a church court in 2011.
“Catholics from Santiago and people of good will are called upon to welcome the Holy Father’s decision,” Cardinal Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati said in a video released by the Archdiocese.
The Vatican announced early Friday that the pontiff expelled Rev. Fernando Karadima from the priesthood.
Karadima was sentenced in 2011 under canon law to a life of seclusion and penance for raping and sexually assaulting minors in Chile.
The decision is part of the Pope’s continuing efforts to clean up the Catholic church in this South American nation.
In May, Francis summoned 34 Chilean bishops to the Vatican, who presented their resignations after it was revealed that they had committed “grave errors and omissions.”
The Pope has accepted the resignations of seven of those bishops, including two last week.
Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Karadima’s victims who now lives in the United States, reacted to the news via Twitter.
“Pedophile Karadima was expelled from the priesthood. I never thought I would see this day. A man who ruined so many lives. I would like to thank Pope Francis @Pontifex_es for having taken this decision. I hope many survivors will feel slightly relieved today,” Cruz said.
On Thursday, Cruz and other victims of Karadima urged the Chilean judiciary to act independently and punish the abuses and cover up within the Catholic church.
The Karadima case is one of the most notorious clerical sexual abuse scandals in Chile because of the priest’s great influence both inside and outside the church, as he had forged strong ties with members of the country’s economic and political elite.
According to records released by prosecutors in August, there are currently 119 ongoing investigations against 167 people linked to the church, while 178 sexual abuse victims have been identified, 79 of whom were minors when they were abused.