Vatican embassy priest faces child pornography charges in US
A SENIOR priest working in the Vatican’s embassy in Washington has been recalled after US prosecutors asked for him to be charged there and face trial in a child pornography inquiry, Vatican and US officials said yesterday.
The diplomat was suspected of possessing child pornography including images of pre-pubescent children, a US source familiar with the case said.
The Vatican declined to identify the priest, but said he was currently in Vatican City and that Vatican prosecutors had begun their own investigation.
If the allegations are found to have substance, the case would be a major embarrassment for the Vatican and Pope Francis, who has pledged “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse.
The diplomat would be the second from the Vatican’s diplomatic corps to face possible criminal charges for such crimes during Francis’s papacy. The Pope’s financial tsar, Cardinal George Pell, is on trial in his native Australia for alleged historic sex abuse cases.
The US state department said it had asked the Vatican to lift the official’s diplomatic immunity on Aug 21.
It said that request was denied three days later.
For the state department to make such a request, its lawyers would have needed to be convinced that there was reasonable cause for criminal prosecution. The circumstances that prompted prosecutors to make the request, however, were not clear.
The justice department, which would have brought any charges, did not immediately comment.
A US official familiar with the case said the priest was a high-ranking member of the Vatican embassy staff. In declining to identify him, the Vatican said the case was subject to confidentiality while still under investigation.
The Vatican spokesman said that he would not confirm if the diplomat’s case would also be referred to prosecutors in its canonical tribunal.