Ex-Vatican official to face child abuse charges

Trial next month of ex-ambassador to Dominican Republic announced amid resignations by two former US bishops.

    Wesolowski, a Pole, was the first person to be arrested inside the Vatican on paedophilia charges [AP]
    Wesolowski, a Pole, was the first person to be arrested inside the Vatican on paedophilia charges [AP]

    The Vatican's former ambassador to the Dominican Republic is to stand trial next month in a Vatican criminal court on charges he sexually abused young boys in the Caribbean country and had child pornography on his computer.

    The criminal case announced on Monday is the first in which such a high-ranking Vatican official has been ordered to stand trial for sexual abuse.

    Analysis: Should the Vatican police itself?

    The indictment against Jozef Wesolowski, a Pole who had previously been defrocked by a Vatican tribunal, came on the same day that two former US bishops announced their resignations after their archdiocese was charged with having failed to protect children from unspeakable harm from a paedophile priest.

    Wesolowski, who could face up to 12 years in jail, last year became the first person to be arrested inside the Vatican on paedophilia charges.

    The Vatican said allegations of crimes committed in the Dominican Republic were based on an investigation by police there, but other charges were based on a Vatican investigation that found child pornography on Wesolowski's computer after his arrest last September.

    Wesolowski was recalled to Rome by the Vatican in 2013 when he was still a diplomat in Santo Domingo and he was relieved of his duties after Dominican media accused him of paying boys to perform sexual acts.

    The former archbishop and ambassador to the Holy See - a direct representative of the pope -  later lost his diplomatic immunity.

    He will face trial on July 11.

    US archdiocese charged

    Separately, the archbishop of St Paul and Minneapolis and a deputy bishop resigned on Monday after American prosecutors had earlier charged the archdiocese with having failed to protect children from "unspeakable harm from a pedophile priest".

    The Vatican said Francis accepted the resignations of Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piche.

    They resigned under the code of canon law that allows bishops to resign before they retire because of illness or some other "grave" reason that makes them unfit for office.

    Earlier this month, prosecutors charged the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis as a corporation of having "turned a blind eye" to repeated reports of inappropriate behaviour by a priest who was later convicted of molesting two boys.

    Inside Story: Can Vatican finally root out sexual abuse?

    Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St Paul, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for molesting two boys and faces prosecution involving a third boy in Wisconsin.

    In a statement, Nienstedt said he was stepping down to give the archdiocese a new beginning. But he insisted he was leaving "with a clear conscience knowing that my team and I have put in place solid protocols to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults".

    In a statement, Piche said: "The people of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis need healing and hope. I was getting in the way of that, and so I had to resign."

    Just days ago, Francis approved the creation of a new tribunal inside the Vatican to hear cases of bishops who failed to protect children from sexually abusive priests.

    Francis' decision followed years of criticism that the Vatican had never held bishops accountable for having ignored warnings about abusive priests and simply moved them from parish to parish rather than report them to police or remove them from ministry.

    In April, Francis accepted the resignation of US bishop Robert Finn, who had been convicted in a US court of failing to report a suspected child abuser.

    SOURCE: Reuters And AP


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