Vatican Lifts Diplomatic Immunity for Envoy Facing Assault Claims
By Harriet Sherwood
July 9, 2019
| Archbishop Luigi Ventura is accused of molesting a male employee of Paris city authorities. Photograph: Remy Gabalda/AFP/Getty Images|
The Vatican has waived diplomatic immunity for its envoy to France, who is under investigation for sexual assault.
The move – an indication of the Vatican’s tougher approach to sexual misconduct and abuse – clears the way for Archbishop Luigi Ventura, the apostolic nuncio, to face criminal charges.
Ventura, 74, is accused of molesting a male employee of Paris city authorities during a new year reception at which Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, addressed diplomats, religious leaders and civil society figures. Parisian authorities have been investigating the allegation for several months.
According to a judicial source, “during the ceremony, a city employee was repeatedly groped on the backside, in three instances, once in front of a witness”.
In March, Nathalie Loiseau, France’s minister of European affairs, urged the Vatican to waive immunity.
“At this point, [Ventura] benefits from diplomatic immunity, but the Holy See is clearly aware of the serious accusations that have been brought against the apostolic nuncio and I don’t doubt for a second that the Holy See will do the right thing,” Loiseau said.
On Monday, Alessandro Gisotti, the interim head of Vatican communications, confirmed the archbishop’s immunity had been waived.
“I can confirm that the Holy See renounces jurisdictional immunity enjoyed by the apostolic nuncio in France, Msgr Luigi Ventura, by virtue of the Vienna convention of 18 April 1961 on diplomatic relations, for the purposes of criminal proceedings concerning him,” he said.
Describing the move as “an extraordinary gesture”, Gisotti said Ventura had agreed “to collaborate fully and spontaneously with the French judicial authorities”.
After the initial allegation was made against in Ventura in March, a second man claimed the diplomat had molested him in Canada in 2008. Christian Vachon alleged Ventura touched his buttocks at least twice during a banquet held at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, near Quebec.
Under the Vienna convention, diplomatic immunity exempts state envoys from lawsuits or prosecution in their host country. In special circumstances, such as a serious criminal offence, protection can be removed by the diplomat’s home country.
The Vatican has faced wave after wave of scandals relating to sexual abuse and misconduct, and has been accused of cover-up and laxity.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis summoned bishops from around the world to Rome for a summit on the issue and later issued a decree making it mandatory for all Catholic priests and nuns to report sexual abuse and its cover-up to church authorities.
Ventura, who was born in Italy, is a career diplomat at the Vatican. He has been the apostolic nuncio to France for almost 10 years.