Defrocked former nuncio under house arrest at Vatican

The Vatican has placed its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic under house arrest, after opening a criminal trial against him.

Former Archbishop Josef Wesolowski is the first high-ranking official to face Vatican criminal charges for sexually abusing young people.

He had already been laicised in June after a canonical trial.

On Tuesday, the Vatican City State’s separate criminal court opened a preliminary hearing into his case.

A Vatican spokesman said the decision to place Wesolowski under house arrest, rather than hold him in a police cell, was taken on account of his health.

Wesolowski presented documentation as to his health condition at the preliminary hearing.

The Vatican has a few small detention rooms inside its police barracks, but no long-term facilities.

A Vatican spokesman said the arrest reflected Pope Francis’s wish “that such a grave and delicate case be handled without delay, with the just and necessary rigour”.

The Holy See recalled the Polish-born Wesolowski in August, 2013, after the Archbishop of Santo Domingo told Pope Francis about rumours that Wesolowski had sexually abused teenage boys.

Dominican authorities opened an investigation, but declined initially to press charges since the Vatican had said Wesolowski enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

Poland also opened an investigation.

A Santo Domingo court, though, took the first steps toward possibly charging him last month after the Vatican said he had lost his immunity when he was defrocked and could be prosecuted elsewhere.

Wesolowski could face jail time if found guilty by the Vatican criminal court, which has jurisdiction over crimes committed within the tiny Vatican City State or by any of the Holy See’s diplomatic personnel.

The Vatican had faced criticism that it had shielded him by recalling him last year.

Many countries do likewise with diplomatic personnel facing possible criminal charges abroad.

Pope Francis has said no prelate, whether a priest or a cardinal, has any privileges when it comes to sex abuse.


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