SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Friday September 13, 2013 – Dominican prosecutors are pursuing a criminal investigation into Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, after a local church representative said the pope had recalled the envoy due to allegations of child abuse.
The Vatican has confirmed that Wesolowski was removed from his post and that an investigation is underway but gave no details of the allegations.
But according to Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, the rector of a Catholic university and spokesman for the church in the country, the pope pulled Wesolowski from the post last month after an internal church report connected him with child abuse and paedophilia.
Wesolowski had been an apostolic nuncio, the Vatican’s official representative in the Dominican Republic.
“It is a situation that really shames and hurts the conscience of all Catholics,” Nunez told reporters. “Really when there are these kinds of situations, justice must be done.”
The situation goes beyond the authority of Dominican church officials because Wesolowski was the Vatican’s envoy there, Nunez added.
“It was a surprise for me. It is an unprecedented case,” the monsignor said. “An ambassador of the Holy See, that it reaches that level.”
Meanwhile, Dominican Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito told reporters. “Here we have to work with two legal aspects, first national laws and also international laws in his [Wesolowski] status as a diplomat, which implies other mechanisms of investigation and judgment.”
The church’s sexual abuse guidelines allow local dioceses to make the initial decisions on the removal of accused priests. Papal nuncios, however, are appointed and supervised by the Vatican.
Before he was elected pope, Francis said that he supports a “zero tolerance” approach to clergy sexual abuse.
Shortly after his election to the papacy, Francis told a senior Vatican official to “act decisively” against sexual abuse and carry out “due proceedings against the guilty.”
For many years, the Catholic Church has been besieged with calls for reform in the wake of scandals involving the sexual abuse of children by priests and allegations of corruption. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)