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Vatican recalls diplomat from US in child porn probe

The Vatican has recalled a priest serving as an envoy in Washington and opened a child pornography investigation after US officials asked the church to lift his diplomatic immunity.

The Vatican said Friday that US officials complained in August “ of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See . ”

In Washington, a State Department official confirmed to AFP that the diplomat in question had been allowed to leave the United States because he enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution.

“ The United States formally requested that the Nunciature waive diplomatic immunity for the individual, but the Nunciature declined to do so, ” the official said, on condition of anonymity.

Neither the church nor US officials named the priest — one of four assigned to the Apostolic Nunciature , the Vatican embassy in Washington — but the Vatican said an investigation is underway.

The Vatican press service said “ efforts had been made through international collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case , ” suggesting that Rome is seeking evidence from US officials.

But with the investigation at a preliminary stage , the case is subject to confidentiality , the Vatican said.

The State Department referred questions about the investigation to the Vatican , and US officials made it clear that they expect church authorities to take the matter seriously .

“ The United States condemns the abuse and exploitation of children wherever it exists, and we offer sincere condolences to victims, ” the official said.

The official noted that Pope Francis has vowed to “ act decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse ” — after decades of scandals that have dogged the Catholic Church around the globe .

“ The United States encourages the Holy See to ensure full implementation of its reforms and policies designed to protect minors and provide justice regarding allegations, ” he said.
“ We would refer you to Vatican officials on the current state of those efforts . ”

The withdrawal of the Washington priest is not the first time that a Vatican diplomat has been caught up in such a scandal — and the last case was particularly embarrassing for the church .

In 2013 , Polish priest Jozef Wesolowski was recalled as the papal nuncio or ambassador from the Dominican Republic , after press reports that he had paid for sexual encounters with children.

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