A former archbishop in Chile accused of sexual abusing minors has died before facing trial.

The 86-year-old Francisco José Cox died on Wednesday morning and was buried later that day in a private ceremony by four brothers from his Schoenstatt community.

The community announced that Cox had died from “respiratory failure and multisystemic failure”.

The statement also noted that Cox was being “investigated in causes of a penal character” and the community added that they “share intensely and deeply the pain of the victims.”

Hernán Godoy, one of main complainants against Cox, told El Día newspaper that he was “very angry” upon hearing the news of Cox’s passing.

Godoy said it would have been “restorative” to “see [Cox] and be able to tell him everything to his face” at a criminal trial, adding that he regretted the slowness of the judicial process.

Cox served as archbishop in the northern city of La Serena in the 1990s, after having spent six years as the first bishop of the central diocese of Chillan and a further nine years working for the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family.

Five years after a priest complained to the Chilean episcopal conference that Cox was having homosexual relationships, the bishop had his resignation from La Serena archdiocese accepted by the Vatican in 1997.

Then in 2002, the Vatican removed Cox from ministry and began a formal investigation, after complaints of sexual abuse against minors were made against him. At the time Cox said: “I ask forgiveness for this dark side within me and which is against the Gospel.”

In 2018, the formal investigation was completed, and on October 13 Pope Francis laicised both Cox and Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernandez, the former bishop of Iquique who had also been accused of sexual abuse.

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