Vatican recalls Dominican Republic envoy over pedophilia accusations

Wed Sep 4, 2013 10:14pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican has recalled its ambassador to the Dominican Republic and relieved him of his duties pending an investigation, after local media accused him of pedophilia, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church said on Wednesday.

The Dominican Attorney General later announced that a special prosecutor had been appointed to investigate Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, who has been nuncio, or ambassador, in the capital Santo Domingo for nearly six years.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Holy See had started a probe of Wesolowski and that he had been recalled "in the last few weeks," specifically over the pedophilia accusations.

"He has been relieved of his duties and the Holy See has begun an investigation," Lombardi said when asked about allegations against Wesolowski in the local media.

Wesolowski could not be reached for comment.

Weeks after his election in March as the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years, Pope Francis announced he wanted the church to root out sexual abuse of children by priests and ensure that abusers are punished.

Monsignor Agripino Núñez Collado, a church official in the Caribbean nation, told reporters the Vatican acted as soon as the pope had been informed of Wesolowski's alleged "missteps."

He said Wesolowski faces possible punishment by the Vatican but may be immune from prosecution in the Dominican Republic because a nuncio has diplomatic status.   Continued...

Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, the Vatican's ambassador to the Dominican Republic, offers mass in Santo Domingo August 3, 2009. The Vatican has recalled Wesolowski, who has been in the Dominican Republic for nearly six years, and relieved him of his duties pending an investigation, after local media accused him of paedophilia, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said on September 4, 2013. Picture taken August 3, 2009. REUTERS/Luis Gomez/Diario Libre