Buenos Aires Times

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France urges Vatican as Church's envoy to Paris is charged with sex abuse

Investigation into 74-year-old nuncio Luigi Ventura for allegedly molesting officials at the Paris mayor's office.

Friday 1 March, 2019
In this file photo taken on January 4, 2018, French President Emannuel Macron (left) shakes hands with Apostolic Nuncio to France, Luigi Ventura, during his New Year wishes to the diplomatic corps at the Élysée Palace in Paris.
In this file photo taken on January 4, 2018, French President Emannuel Macron (left) shakes hands with Apostolic Nuncio to France, Luigi Ventura, during his New Year wishes to the diplomatic corps at the Élysée Palace in Paris. Foto:Ludovic MARIN / AFP

France called on the Vatican Friday to take action after sex abuse charges were filed against the Church's envoy to Paris, suggesting his diplomatic immunity should be lifted.

French judicial sources said in mid-February that they were investigating 74-year-old nuncio Luigi Ventura for allegedly molesting officials at the Paris mayor's office.

The Italian-born Ventura, who served as the Vatican envoy to Canada from 2001 to 2009, is also being investigated for alleged sexual assault there.

"I am waiting for the Holy See to assume its responsibilities," French European Minister Nathalie Loiseau told CNEWS television when asked if Ventura should see his diplomatic immunity lifted.

"At this stage he [Ventura] has diplomatic immunity, but the Holy See obviously knows about the serious charges against the nuncio, and I have no doubt the Vatican will take the right decision," Loiseau said.

Ventura also faces a "single" complaint filed in Ottawa, the embassy told AFP on Thursday, adding that the complaint has been reported to officials in Vatican City.

According to the Canadian website Presence, which specialises in religious news and first reported on the complaint, Ventura allegedly groped a man in 2008 at the shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre in Quebec province.

The alleged victim, then 32, was helping to serve Ventura during a banquet for the Feast of Sainte Anne. The man said that Ventura touched his buttocks at least twice, according to Presence.

The man filed his complaint last week at the Vatican embassy in Ottawa after learning of the accusations against Ventura in France.

'Very serious' if proven

Ventura has been accused of molesting a man at the town hall in Paris on January 17 when Mayor Anne Hidalgo gave a New Year's address to diplomats, religious leaders and civil society figures. 

"During the ceremony, a city employee was repeatedly groped on the backside, in three instances, once in front of a witness," a town hall source told AFP.

A similar complaint has been filed by a former Paris city employee for case that allegedly took place a year ago, city hall officials said.

"If the facts are proven, they are very serious because when you are a religious leader you are supposed to have a moral authority, so I would say that's an aggravating circumstance," Loiseau added.

Ventura previously also served in Brazil, Bolivia and Britain before being appointed papal nuncio to Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger, Chile and then Canada.

Catholic clerics have been denounced in countries as far afield as Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ireland and the United States, prompting pledges from Pope Francis to rid the church of a scourge that has done enormous damage to its standing.

The pope has vowed that the Catholic Church will no longer ignore abuse allegations, and he removed two prominent cardinals from his inner circle late last year after they were tainted by paedophile scandals.

- AFP

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