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14 Chilean priests suspended ahead of Pope's meeting with second group of sex abuse victims

(Reuters/Claudio Santana)The 'El Bosque' church, former parish of Vatican-convicted child abuser Fernando Karadima, is seen during the Vatican's special envoy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, meetings with victims of sexual abuse, allegedly committed by members of the church in Santiago, Chile February 21, 2018. Picture taken February 21, 2018.

Catholic church officials in Chile have suspended 14 priests for "improper conduct," as Pope Francis prepares to meet with a second group of sex abuse victims in Rome.

The diocese of Rancagua announced the suspension of the 14 priests after convening a meeting of 68 priests, RTE reported.

The suspension reportedly came after an expose featuring local bishop, Alejandro Goic, who has been accused of repeatedly failing to investigate a case brought forward by a church employee.

Goic, who serves as the head of the Chilean hierarchy's child protection committee, had apologized on Tuesday for not conducting a probe on the report.

The 14 priests will remain suspended while they are being investigated. "Precautionary measures have been adopted," Gabriel Becerra, the vicar general of the diocese, told reporters, according to RTE.

The diocese noted that the information related to the suspensions have been forwarded to a state prosecutor's office.

RTE noted that a program aired by Chile's Channel 13 accused the suspended priests — dubbed as "the Family" — of sexually abusing young people, including minors.

The news of the suspension came as the Vatican announced that Francis will be hosting a second group of sex abuse victims.

The pontiff had recently met three victims of Fr. Fernando Karadima, a priest who reportedly committed abuse against boys in Santiago during the 1970s and 1980s.

The second group — comprised of seven priests and two lay people — will be meeting the pope on June 1–3.

"With this new meeting, scheduled a month ago, Pope Francis wants to show his closeness to abused priests, to accompany them in their pain and to listen to their valuable views to improve the current preventive measures and the fight against abuses in the Church," a statement from the Vatican read, as reported by Crux.

"This concludes this first phase of meetings that the Holy Father wanted to have with victims of the abusive system established several decades ago in the aforementioned parish. These priests and lay people represent all the victims of abuses by the clergy in Chile, but it is not ruled out that similar initiatives may occur in the future," it continued.

Some of the priests in the second group have complained about Karadima's abuses of power and conscience.

Karadima has been found guilty of sexually abusing minors by the Vatican in 2011 and was sentenced to a life of penitence and prayer. However, he had managed to avoid conviction in Chilean courts due to the country's statute of limitations.

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