Pope Francis has removed the Chilean child sex abuser Fernando Karadima from the priesthood, the Vatican announced.
Karadima, who has been at the centre of Chile’s abuse crisis, was notified of his dismissal from the clerical state on 28 September with the order taking effect immediately.
In its statement, the Holy See said the Pope ordered Karadima’s removal exercising Canon 331 of the Church’s law which gives the Roman Pontiff “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely."
Removing a priest from the clerical state normally involves internal church procedures, but the use of this element of Canon Law suggests it was a personal order from Francis and by-passed the normal procedures. His decision to dismiss Karadima from the clerical state comes seven years 2011 after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered the Chilean priest to live a life of prayer and penance following an investigation.
But Karadima’s victims did not the let the matter rest. The ex-priest was known as an influential and charismatic figure, who targeted vulnerable young men such as Juan Carlos Cruz and James Hamilton whom he abused for over two decades.
Speaking after the announcement, Cruz tweeted: “I never thought I'd see this day” and described Karadima as “a man who ruined so many people's lives.”
Impeccably dressed with slicked black hair, Karadima counted Chile’s elite among his friends including being a close ally of General Augusto Pinochet.
He was also a magnet for priestly vocations and acted as a mentor and guide for around 50 priests including bishops. Among them was Bishop Juan Barros who was accused of witnessing abuse carried out against Cruz by Karadima.
The Pope sparked enormous controversy by appointing Bishop Barros to lead the Diocese of Osorno in 2015, and initially dismissed cover-up claims against Barros.
But after an investigation by top-sex abuse investigator Archbishop Charls Scicluna and summit with the Chilean bishops in May, the Pope accepted Bishop Barros’ resignation.
Note: This article has been updated from the original version and headline of this story that stated that Karadima had been "laicised". We amended this to "dismissed from the clerical state" after Michael Kelly tweeted in response to our story: "You mean 'dismissed from the clerical state'. The incorrect term 'laicised' is clericalist, elitist and demeaning of the People of God."