|Argentine Priest on Trial for Sexual Abuse
August 19, 2008
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — An Argentine priest went on trial Tuesday, charged with 17 counts of sexual abuse and corruption of three young boys.
Prosecutors say Julio Grassi, 52, abused three boys — including two minors — who attended his well-known "Happy the Children" Foundation for underprivileged youth. The boys are on a list of more than 350 witnesses who will testify against Grassi over the next few months. The archbishop of Buenos Aires is also on the list.
"Happy the Children" Foundation, created in 1993, converted Grassi into a renowned figure in Argentina, allowing him to bring in thousands of dollars (euros) in donations, many from important public figures who have since distanced themselves from the priest.
Grassi reiterated a claim of innocence Tuesday during an abruptly called recess due to alleged "irregularities" in the case, according to his lawyers. The priest has a Web site on which he also declares his innocence and says his life's purpose is "to save children from a life on the street."
More than 90 percent of Argentines identify themselves as Catholics, although less than 20 percent are practicing.
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