Pope Francis Fires Paraguayan Bishop Accused of Protecting Pedophile Priest; Bishop Hits Back at Vatican

(Photo: Reuters/Max Rossi)Pope Francis waves as he leads the general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican September 24, 2014.

Paraguayan Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, who has been accused of protecting a priest suspected of sexually abusing minors, has been officially removed from his post by the Roman Catholic Church. In a subsequent letter to the Vatican, Plano hit back against the decision and said that Pope Francis "will have to answer before God."

The Vatican explained in a statement on Thursday that Francis has decided to replace Plato following an investigation, and named Ricardo Jorge Valenzuela Ríos, Bishop of Villarrica del Espíritu Santo, to fill his vacancy.

"The grave decision taken by the Holy See, under the weight of serious pastoral concerns, is for the greater good and unity of the Church of Ciudad del Este and episcopal communion in Paraguay," the statement read.

"The Holy Father, in the exercise of his ministry as 'the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful' (LG 23) calls for the clergy and the entire people of God of Ciudad del Este to accept the Holy See's decision with the spirit of obedience, docility and an open heart, guided by faith.

While the statement did not outline the results of the investigation, Vatican sources revealed that the bishop had refused to resign following reports of irregularities in his diocese, Voice of America noted. Plano had been accused of promoting a priest suspected of committing sexual abuse against children while serving in the United States.

Plano has reportedly sent a letter to the head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, calling the decision to fire him "unfounded and arbitrary." He added that "The pope will have to answer to God and not to me."

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests responded to the news by stating that the group is "encouraged," but emphasized that "one act involving one bishop does not, in any way, signal dramatic change."

"Across the globe, hundreds of thousands of Catholic officials – from pastors to prelates – have ignored or concealed clergy sex crimes and many are still ignoring and concealing clergy sex crimes," SNAP added.

Francis has spoken numerous times about the Vatican's commitment to tackling the problem of priest abusers, and in July met abuse victims for the first time. The pontiff asked them for forgiveness, and condemned the "sacrilegious cult" of abusers.

"This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation. It is something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God," the Roman Catholic Church leader declared.

"And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence. They profane the very image of God in whose likeness we were created. Childhood, as we all know, young hearts, so open and trusting, have their own way of understanding the mysteries of God's love and are eager to grow in the faith."