LIMA The Vatican, under Pope Francis' "zero-tolerance" policy for pedophile priests, removed an auxiliary bishop from his post in a Peruvian province because of allegations he sexually abused children, a bishop said on Friday.
Luis Bambaren, the former president of Peru's bishops' conference and bishop emeritus of Chimbote, told local media that Gabino Miranda was dismissed as auxiliary bishop in the dioceses of Ayacucho, a poor Andean region in southern Peru, after he was accused of having sexual relations with minors.
"It is what the Pope said - zero tolerance," Bambaren said on RPP radio. "Those are very serious crimes, especially when it has to do with a bishop."
A Church official confirmed to Reuters that Miranda, 53, had resigned from Peru's bishops' conference but declined to say why.
The attorney general's office said on Friday that it was investigating Miranda and would announce actions soon.
Reuters was not able to reach Miranda for comment, but conservative Catholic group Opus Dei said that Miranda has denied the abuse allegations.
"He denies any crime related to minors," Opus Dei in Peru said in a statement on Friday.
The group said that while Miranda had received "spiritual assistance" from an organization closely linked to Opus Dei - the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross - Miranda is not a member of Opus Dei.
"Gabino Miranda has never been incardinated in the clergy of Prelature of Opus Dei," the statement said.
Shortly after becoming pope in March, Francis directed the Vatican to act quickly when clergymen are suspected of sexually abusing children, and vowed to punish pedophiles in the Church.
Francis has set a new tone in a Church beset by scandals with his informal style and emphasis on helping the poor instead of criticizing homosexuality, contraception and abortion.
In a dramatically blunt interview published on Thursday by an Italian Jesuit journal, Francis said the Church had "locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules" and should not be so prone to condemn.
Local media reported that last week Francis met with Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutierrez, considered a key founder of the liberation theology movement popular in the 1970s that urged clergy to take active roles in improving the lot of the poor.
(Reporting By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino)