Pope Francis on Thursday removed Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano from governance of the Diocese of of Cuidad del Este, in eastern Paraguay, following an apostolic visitation of the diocese which took place in July.

"This was a difficult decision on the part of the Holy See, taken for serious pastoral reasons and for the greater good of the unity of the Church in Ciudad del Este and the episcopal communion in Paraguay," the Holy See press office announced Sept. 25.

"The Holy Father, in the exercise of his ministry as the 'perpetual and visible foundation of the unity of both the bishops and the multitude of the faithful', asked the clergy and all the People of God of Ciudad del Este to accept the Holy See's decision with a spirit of obedience and docility and without prejudice, guided by faith."

The decision follows a visitation of the diocese conducted July 21-26 by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello and Bishop Milton Troccoli Cebedio. The apostolic visitation had already resulted in the suspension of priestly and diaconal ordinations in the diocese -- there had been scheduled priestly ordinations for Aug. 15.
The Diocese of Ciudad del Este has received attention because Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity, who was its vicar general until shortly before the visitation, has a history of sexual abuse accusations.

The Argentine native served in the Diocese of Scranton from the late 1990s until 2002, when a highly publicized lawsuit accused him of sexual misconduct involving minors at the now-closed St. Gregory's Academy.

Both Fr. Urrutigoity and another priest, Fr. Eric Ensey, were suspended by now-retired Bishop James Timlin, who also suspended the Society of St. John to which the priests belonged.

Bishop Timlin's successor, Bishop Joseph Martino, "carefully and consistently expressed his grave doubts about this cleric's suitability for priestly ministry," but Bishop Livieres incardinated Fr. Urrutigoity in spite of his fellow bishop's doubts.

The decision to remove Bishop Livieres was made "following a careful examination of the conclusions drawn" from the apostolic visitation, the Holy See press office stated.

It added that Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela Rios of Villarrica del Espiritu Santo has been appointed as apostolic administrator of the diocese.

The statement urged that "the Church in Paraguay, guided by her pastors … embark on a serious process of reconciliation in order to overcome any form of sectarianism or discord, so as not to harm the countenance of the one Church, 'born of the blood of His Son' and so that Christ's flock may not be deprived of the joy of the Gospel."

Bishop Livieres had led the Diocese of Ciudad del Este since 2004; he was ordained a priest of Opus Dei in 1978.

Soon after coming to the diocese, Bishop Livieres opened a major seminary, and he was closely involved in promoting priestly vocations.

More than 60 priests have been ordained in the past 10 years from St. Joseph's Major Seminary. According to Italian daily La Stampa, the seminary has "cut the period of priestly formation to only four years, citing the urgent need for new priests."

Because of this success, in 2012 the diocese opened the St. Andrew Minor Seminary, as well as the St. Irenaeus of Lyons Institute of Priestly Formation.

According to a statement which appeared on the diocese's website, the Paraguyan bishops "resisted" Bishop Livieres' new seminaries because they would "break the monolithic scheme of priestly formation" held by the national seminary.