The Vatican Lifts the Immunity of the Apostolic Nuncio to France, Accused of Sexual Assault

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The Vatican lifted the immunity of its representative in France, Luigi Ventura.

This is a first: the Vatican has lifted the immunity of its ambassador to France, Luigi Ventura, who is under investigation in Paris for sexual assault.

A first in the modern history of the Vatican diplomacy: the Vatican lifted the immunity of its ambassador to France, Luigi Ventura , under investigation in Paris for “sexual assault”, a step that makes now possible legal proceedings.

The Apostolic Nuncio is targeted by the complaints of at least four men in France, at least three of whom reproach him for touching.

After being heard by the French judicial police in early April, the 74 year old bishop went to confront several of the plaintiffs at the end of May, during which he denied the facts.

On Monday 8th July 2019, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said he received, “late last week”, “confirmation from the Holy See of its waiver of immunity for the proposed procedure.” The prosecutor’s office in Paris confirmed his side have been notified on Monday.

Four complaints filed

“This is an extraordinary measure which confirms the will expressed by the nuncio himself from the beginning of this affair to collaborate fully and spontaneously with the competent French judicial authorities,” explained the Holy See a little later. in a statement. He said he waited “before making this decision, (…) the conclusion, announced late June, the preliminary phase” of the investigation.

The case broke out in February with the revelation of the opening of an investigation by the Paris prosecutor’s office, in a context of multiple sexual scandals affecting the Catholic Church.

The mayor of Paris had reported to the prosecutor that a young municipal executive, Mathieu de la Souchere, had complained of repeated touching of the apostolic nuncio – from “hands to buttocks” – during a ceremony of vows to the diplomatic authorities. January.

Two other complainants then came forward and reported similar facts in 2018. These three men were heard by the investigators. At least one other, a fourth complaint was lodged by another man.

“The efforts of the victims have paid,” reacted with AFP Mathieu de la Souchere, saying “very surprised” by this decision.

“We will finally be able to be entitled to a fair investigation and trial, which was not possible until now because we had an aggressor who was protected because of his status,” he said, deploring the that, according to him, the victims were not supported by the French government in this case.

Read also: Pope Francis makes it mandatory for clergy to report sexual abuse

“A first victory”

The 27-year-old man travelled to Rome in early July with another victim to meet with German father Hans Zollner, one of the church’s recognized experts on sex scandals. He had then announced his intention to seize the Holy See of this affair, considering that things were advancing “not fast enough”.

“We can only satisfy ourselves that the Vatican accepts that this situation of lawlessness does not endure,” said Jade Dousselin, a lawyer for Benjamin, one of the other plaintiffs. “This is the first victory, we must now go to justice,” she added.

A career diplomat of the Vatican, Bishop Ventura has been serving as Apostolic Nuncio since 2009 in Paris. He is in charge of the relations of the Holy See with the French authorities on the one hand and with the Bishops of France on the other, for which he participates in the nomination process.

Given his functions, he had until then enjoyed diplomatic immunity and could not be constrained by investigators.

This waiver of immunity is a historic decision for an active nuncio.

In June 2018, a counsellor of the nunciature to the United States had been sentenced to five years in prison for the detention and transmission of child pornography material by the Vatican justice, the Holy See having recalled it without following up a request of the lifting of diplomatic immunity demanded by Washington.

In 2013, the Vatican also urgently recalled from the Dominican Republic Josef Wesolowski, a Polish nuncio accused of paedophilia, refusing to extradite him to Poland. He had died the day before his trial in the Vatican Court.

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