Vatican court delays trial of its own pedophile diplomat after sudden illness

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The criminal trial of a former diplomat of the Holy See accused of possession of child pornography and of committing paedophile acts has been put on hold after he was taken to a hospital for an unforeseen illness. The first hearing in the trial of Josef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic who was later defrocked, was held by the city state’s criminal court on Saturday, the Catholic News Agency wrote.

It is the Vatican’s first child sex abuse trial in history, a clear indication of Pope Francis’ determination to impose a zero-tolerance policy for child abuse by Catholic clergy worldwide. Although the opening hearing went as scheduled, it closed after six minutes because the defendant failed to show up, The Telegraph reported. Lawyers said the trial is set to continue at a later date after Wesolowski has recovered.

Vatican City’s promoter of justice, Gian Piero Milano, said the 66-year-old Wesolowski could not attend the court proceeding as he was taken to a hospital for an unspecified illness. The magistrates taking part in the landmark trial are Giuseppe Dalla Torre, Piero Antonio Bonnet, Paolo Papanti-Pellettier, and Venerando Marano who fills in as a substitute. The defence counsel for the accused is Antonello Blasi while the promoter of justice is aided by Alessandro Diddi and Roberto Zannotti.

Allegations that then-Archbishop Wesolowski paid under-age boys for sex came out in 2013. He stepped down as Vatican diplomat to the Dominican Republic in August of the same year. A charge sheet released by the Vatican showed new details of accusations against him, which stated that he “corrupted, through libidinous acts, adolescents aged between 13 and 16.” In at least one instance, the acts happened in a place “exposed to public view.”

He was also found to have downloaded child pornography into two computers, done when he was under house arrest in the Vatican following his recall from his post in 2013. He was defrocked and reduced to lay status by a Church court in June last year.