Vatican City, Sep 28 (AP) Pope Francis has defrocked the Chilean priest at the center of the global sex abuse scandal rocking his papacy, invoking his “supreme” authority to stiffen a sentence originally handed down by the Vatican in 2011. Also Read - Vatican orders ex-diplomat to face child sex abuse trial

In a statement Friday, the Vatican said Francis had laicized the 88-year-old Rev. Fernando Karadima, who was originally sanctioned to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for having sexually abused minors. Also Read - All Chilean bishops quit over child abuse scandal: spokesman

The “penance and prayer” sanction has been the Vatican’s punishment of choice for elderly priests convicted of raping and molesting children. It has long been criticized by victims as too soft and essentially an all-expenses-paid retirement. Also Read - Chile's bishops resign en masse over sex abuse cover-up

The Vatican didn’t say what new evidence, if any, prompted Francis to re-evaluate Karadima’s original sanction and impose what clergy consider the equivalent of a death sentence. AP NSA

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.