Pope Francis has defrocked Chilean priest Fernando Karadima, making what the Vatican calls an "exceptional" decision based on his own conscience and concern for the good of the Catholic Church. Karadima has been the face of the Church's abuse scandal in Chile.

The move is effective immediately. It was announced in a brief communique from the Vatican's press office, stating that Francis had signed the decree removing Karadima from the priesthood on Thursday, and that Karadima was informed of the pope's decision on Friday.

Karadima, 88, had already been forced to retire from ministerial duties, after a Vatican tribunal found him guilty in 2011 of sexually abusing dozens of minors, in a scandal that erupted in 2010.

In June, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of three bishops over the church's handling of the sexual abuse cases — including Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who has been accused of covering up Karadima's actions.

Barros was a protégé of Karadima, who was accused of abuse in cases that date back to the 1980s.

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