Vat­i­can em­bassy priest faces child pornog­ra­phy charges in US

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Our For­eign Staff

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.

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