Fourteen priests involved in a sex abuse scandal in Chile that has rocked Pope Francis's papacy have been have been suspended while they are investigated for "improper conduct".
The suspensions were prompted by an exposé by Chilean television journalists of a failure by the local bishop, Alejandro Goic, to act on information a church employee had given him repeatedly.
Bishop Goic, who also leads the Chilean hierarchy's child protection committee, apologised yesterday for not investigating the case highlighted by the church worker.
Before announcing the suspensions, the diocese convened a meeting of 68 of its priests.
"Precautionary measures have been adopted," Gabriel Becerra, its vicar general told reporters.
Meanwhile, the Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will host a second group of Chilean victims of clerical abuse days after all the country's 34 serving bishops tendered their resignations over the broader scandal engulfing the church in the country next door to his native Argentina.
The Pope is still considering the offer.
Earlier this month, the pope apologised personally to three men who were victims of the paedophile priest, the well-connected Fr Fernando Karadima, who was based in the capital Santiago and who has been convicted by a church court.
Pope Francis said he had made "grave errors" when he accused the men of spreading calumny about Bishop Juan Barros when they accused him of failing to report abuse despite witnessing some of his crimes.
The pontiff blamed his mistake on misinformation received from Chile's Catholic leadership.
The second group includes priests who fell foul of Fr Karadima, the Vatican said.
In all, five men, accompanied by two priests who have helped them and two lay people, will visit the pope the week-end after next.
The diocese of Rancagua said that the information related to the priests' suspensions was given to a state prosecutor's office and that, from the point of view of church law, papers on the suspensions were sent to the Vatican.
"We deeply regret any act or situation that violates the values and principles that underpin our Catholic Church and we want to express our solidarity with the victims," the diocese said in a statement.
The statement added that the fourteen priests "are no longer allowed to carry out their duties" because they had "taken part in actions that may be civil crimes as well as crimes within the church."
Nicknamed "the Family," the group of alleged clerical offenders was accused of sexually abusing young people including minors,in a programme broadcast by the country's Channel 13 last week.