Priest Raped US in an Orgy, Says Nun

By Richard Owen
The Times [Italy]
January 24, 2006,,13509-2006356,00.html

A PRIEST whose devotion to saving the souls of prostitutes and porn stars has earned him celebrity status in Italy has been arrested on charges of sexual violence and group rape.

Father Fedele Bisceglia, 69, was arrested after a nun alleged that she and other women had been raped at their Franciscan hostel at Cosenza in Calabria, southern Italy. Antonio Gaudio, 39, Father Bisceglia's assistant, has also been charged with sexual harassment. Both men deny the charges.

Father Bisceglia, a striking, white-bearded figure with piercing blue eyes, is a national figure in Italy because of his missionary work for the poor as well as his colourful, extrovert television appearances.

He is probably best known for having converted Luana Borgia, a porn actress, to Christianity ten years ago, persuading her to enter a convent on a retreat to reflect on her life and "purify herself spiritually". Father Bisceglia even accompanied Ms Borgia to the Bologna "Erotic Fair", where she announced her conversion and set up a stall collecting money for an ambulance for one of his missions in Africa.

Signora Borgia, who was 30 at the time, said that she was "tired of the pornography business" and had been searching for a way to start again. She said that she had known Father Bisceglia "for some time" and they had become friends after she agreed to help him with fundraising for charity.

The priest, who is also a qualified doctor, is the founder of the Franciscan Oasis, a hostel and social centre at Cosenza providing food and shelter for the poor, detainees on day release, former prostitutes, young single mothers and illegal immigrants. He also set up a "Franciscan disco" in the town, offering "soft drinks and the Gospel instead of alcohol and drugs".

He is also noted for his missionary work in Africa, where over the past two decades he has campaigned to tackle leprosy and to set up hospitals, social centres and churches. Last year he became caught up in fighting in Congo-Brazzaville but escaped unhurt.

He makes frequent television appearances, notably on Domenica In (Home on Sunday), a popular afternoon variety and chat show.

He was also president of Cosenza football club last season. Father Bisceglia said that he was innocent of the charges, which were "completely invented". He said that the nun was unbalanced. "The woman is mad. I am being persecuted like Jesus Christ," he said.

However, local police alleged that telephone taps appeared to confirm the nun's story. Pornographic videos had been found at the priest's home, police said, some allegedly filmed at the Cosenza hostel.

Police said that the nun had been subjected to a psychiatric examination and found to be in full possession of her mental faculties. Allegations by three other women against the priest and his assistant were also being investigated.

Monsignor Salvatore Nunnari, the Archbishop of Cosenza, expressed "fraternal support" for Father Bisceglia but said that he did "not know all the facts. I have complete faith in Italian justice and the process of law," the archbishop said.


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