Child Abuse Trial to Begin in Vatican in Landmark Case

By Nick Squires
The Telegraph
July 10, 2015

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, papal nuncio for the Dominican Republic, in 2013 Photo: AP

The former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic will go on trial on Saturday in the Holy See charged with paying for sex with minors, in an unprecedented test of Pope Francis’s determination to tackle sex abuse by clergy.

Jozef Wesolowski, 66, from Poland, is accused of giving money to street children in exchange for sexual acts while serving as the Vatican’s nuncio, or ambassador, to the Caribbean country

“He seduced me with money,” a shoeshine boy who was 14 when he was abused by the archbishop, told The New York Times. “I felt very bad. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I needed the money.”

The landmark trial opens as Pope Francis conducts a three-country tour of his home continent of South America, visiting Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay.

It will take place in a Vatican tribunal inside the tiny city state, where Wesolowski faces charges of sexual abuse of minors and possession of child pornography on his computer.

Former Papal Nuncio Jozef Wesolowski attends a ceremony in Santo Somingo (AFP/Getty)

This is the first sex abuse trial to take place within the walls of the Holy See and Wesolowski is the most senior Vatican figure to be tried for such offences.

His case is one of the most damaging – and embarrassing – to hit the Catholic Church since the clerical sex abuse scandal first erupted in the US more than a decade ago.

He was unfrocked in June 2014 after a Church tribunal found that he had abused minors during his 2008-2013 stint as the ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

Wesolowski was placed under house arrest inside Vatican City and has since been awaiting a criminal trial.

If convicted, Wesolowski faces up to seven years in prison, possibly longer if there are found to be aggravating circumstances.

In a statement, the Vatican said: “This will be a delicate and detailed procedure, requiring the most careful observations and insights from all parties involved in the trial.”

The Vatican was criticised for secretly bringing Wesolowski to Rome when the allegations first emerged in 2013, and for refusing to accede to extradition requests from the Dominican Republic and Poland.

Analysts have said the fact that he is finally being put on trial is highly significant.

"It is a very strong and powerful change of direction that is also highly symbolic," said Francesco Clementi, an expert in Vatican law, when the trial was first announced.

“Francis has made a clear choice: in the state where he is sovereign and pontiff there is no place for clergy or lay people suspected of sexual abuse, particularly of minors."

But Keith Porteous Wood, the director of the UK’s National Secular Society, said the trial was “a travesty of justice.”

“It demonstrates again the Vatican’s contempt for the victims. Wesolowski was secreted back to the Vatican to save him from criminal trial in the Dominican Republic with the victims and witnesses,” he said.

Wesolowski was ordained in 1972 by the then-archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II.

During his career, Wesolowski served as a Vatican diplomat in Bolivia and several Asian countries before being appointed as ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 2008.

His trial is expected to conclude early next year.








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