The Pope has defrocked the priest at the centre of claims that the Virgin Mary has been appearing in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje.
The Vatican stripped Father Tomislav Vladic of his priest status after an investigation into growing concerns over the alleged apparitions.
Father Vlasic was named as the 'creator' of the phenomenon by Pavao Zanic, the local bishop at the time the apparitions began in 1981.
In the midst of a spat with the local bishop and the Vatican, he had earlier made a prophecy that the Virgin Mary would appear in Bosnia.
Months later, six local children said they had seen the Virgin on a nearby hillside. Soon after Father Vlasic announced he was 'spiritual adviser' to the 'visionaries' who now claim that Our Lady has visited them 40,000 times over the last 28 years.
An estimated 30million pilgrims have visited the shrine since 1981, including many from Britain and Ireland.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, issued a ban on pilgrimages to the site but this has been widely ignored.
Father Vlasic was suspended last year by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith amid an inquiry into his conduct after three commissions failed to find evidence to support the visionaries' claims.
The Vatican also began an inquiry into claims he was guilty of sexual immorality after he made a nun pregnant.
The defrocking was secretly signed off by the Pope in March.
Father Vlasic refused to cooperate with the investigation from the outset and he was banished to a monastery in L’Aquila, Italy, where he was forbidden to communicate with anyone, even his lawyers, without the permission of his superior.
It emerged yesterday that he has chosen to leave the priesthood and his order, a move which has brought the investigation to an abrupt halt.
The defrocking of Father Vlasic means he is stripped of his priest status.
This represents a massive blow to millions of Medjugorje followers worldwide who were hoping that the Vatican would one day legitimise the controversial shrine.
The seers have grown wealthy as a result of their claims - and so has their town, which has boomed as a result of the ‘Madonna gold rush’.
Some today own smart executive houses with immaculate gardens, double garages and security gates, and one has a tennis court.
They also own expensive cars and have married, one of them, Ivan Dragicevic, to an American former beauty queen.