Pope replaces Santiago accused bishop

The Pope has replaced Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago, Chile.
The Pope has replaced Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago, Chile.

Pope Francis has replaced Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati as archbishop of Santiago, Chile, after he was placed under criminal investigation in the country's spiralling church sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

Francis accepted Ezzati's resignation on Saturday and named a temporary replacement to govern Chile's most important archdiocese: the Spanish-born Capuchin friar and current bishop of Copiapo, Chile, Monsignor Celestino Aos Braco.

In a statement asking for prayers for his new job, Aos acknowledged the difficulties ahead, noting the "light and darkness, success and shortcomings, wounds and sins" of the Santiago church. But Aos too faced accusations of cover-up after a former seminarian accused him of helping stall his case years ago.

The 77-year-old Ezzati had submitted his resignation to Francis two years ago when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. But Francis kept him on, and Ezzati became the flashpoint of abuse survivors' ire for mishandling several cases of abuse.

On Friday, an appeals court in Chile allowed prosecutors to continue investigating Ezzati for an alleged cover-up, rejecting his motion to dismiss the case and remove himself from the probe, Chilean media reported.

Ezzati has denied covering up any cases but has acknowledged the pain of abuse victims and vowed to promote transparency.

At a press conference Saturday, he said he was leaving "with my head held high." He insisted that all complaints that were lodged with the archdiocesan office he created in 2011 "have been investigated or are being investigated."

Australian Associated Press