Pope Francis has sacked a Paraguayan bishop accused of protecting a priest suspected of sexually abusing young people, the Vatican said yesterday.
A statement said the Pope had removed Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano from his post as head of the diocese of Ciudad del Este and named another bishop to run it as an administrator for the time being.
The sacking followed a Vatican investigation of the bishop, the diocese and its seminaries, said the statement, which gave no details.
Vatican sources said the bishop had refused to resign after the investigation and reports of irregularities in his diocese.
The Pope has vowed zero tolerance of clerics who abuse minors. Last May, Pope Francis called such abuse an "ugly crime" and likened it to "a Satanic mass".
The Paraguayan bishop was not available for comment and was believed to be out of the country.
The Vatican's ambassador in Paraguay, Archbishop Eliseo Ariotti, said in the capital Asuncion it would be up to the new administrator of the diocese to make decisions regarding the priest accused of sexual abuse.
He said that as part of the disciplinary procedure against Livieres Plano, the bishop would not be allowed to say mass in public but only in private.
According to reports, while the Vatican investigation was in progress, Livieres Plano had promoted a priest accused of sexual abuse while serving in the United States.
Livieres Plano had defended both himself and the priest, saying the charges were unfounded. The bishop was a member of the conservative Roman Catholic group Opus Dei and often clashed with more liberal clerics, according to the reports.
The Vatican said Pope Francis had taken the "onerous decision" to remove Livieres Plano after careful examination of the results of the Vatican investigation. SNAP, a U.S.-based victims' group which has often called on the Vatican to discipline bishops suspected of covering up abuse, said it was "encouraged" by the move. It said Livieres Plano had "protected and promoted a credibly accused sex offender cleric". BishopAccountability.org, a US resource centre on sexual abuse in the church, called the move "bold" but said the Vatican should say if he had been "fired primarily because of his wanton disregard for the safety of young people."