VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A Catholic priest who worked as a diplomat at the Vatican’s embassy in Washington was indicted on Saturday on charges of possessing child pornography in the United States and Canada.
A Vatican statement said an investigation found that Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, who was arrested in the Vatican in April after he had been recalled, had allegedly possessed and exchanged “a large quantity” of child pornography.
A Vatican magistrate ordered him to stand trial. It will start in the Vatican’s tiny courtroom on June 22, the statement said.
It was not possible to reach Capella, who is being held in a cell in the Vatican’s police barracks. The Vatican did not identify his lawyer.
The scandal is the latest blow to the Catholic Church as it struggles to overcome repeated sex abuse cases among its clergy.
Last month, Chile’s 34 bishops offered to resign en masse after attending a crisis meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican about the cover-up of sexual abuse in the south American nation.
In August, the U.S. State Department notified the Holy See of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See accredited to Washington.
A few weeks later, the United States requested that Capella’s diplomatic immunity be waived to open the way for possible prosecution there, but the Vatican refused.
Saturday’s Vatican statement said the tiny city-state had jurisdiction in the case because even though the alleged crime was committed abroad, Capella was a Vatican official at the time.
After Capella was recalled to Rome, police in Windsor, Canada, said they had issued an arrest warrant for him on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography on the internet while visiting church in Canada.
The Capella case is potentially the worst involving a diplomat since the case in 2013 of former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was Polish.
Wesolowski faced charges of paying boys for sexual acts, downloading and buying pedophile material while he was the Vatican’s ambassador in the Dominican Republic.
He was recalled to Rome by the Vatican, arrested, and stripped of his duties after a report by Dominican media led to an investigation by Dominican magistrates.
He died in hospital in 2015 at the age of 67 before his trial before a Vatican court could begin.
Pope Francis has declared zero tolerance over abuse scandals that have beset the Church for decades, but critics say he has not done enough, particularly to hold bishops responsible for mishandling or covering up abuse.
Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Potter