Santiago, Chile (CNN) -- The archbishop of Santiago has asked the Vatican to investigate a priest accused of sexually abusing four minors, a church official said.
Archbishop Francisco Javier Errazuriz decided to ask the Vatican to intercede after learning of the grave accusations against the Rev. Fernando Karadima, the church official said in a statement broadcast Friday on CNN Chile, CNN's partner network in the nation, and on the Chilean church's website.
"The strong accusations, their painful airing on television, the scandal they have provoked and the investigative process have produced in our community sentiments of suffering, disorder and lack of faith," Errazuriz said.
The archbishop also asked the Vatican to lift the statute of limitations on any possible infractions because some of the accusations date back many years, Errazuriz said.
Karadima has denied the accusations and said he welcomes the investigation, published reports said.
The archbishop has requested that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith investigate the matter, in which case a three-judge panel would take over. Errazuriz said he expects a ruling this year.
The priest has been removed from all public ministry, the archbishop said.