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Vatican orders former Dominican Republic archbishop to stand trial on child abuse charges

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Wesolowski, who had the title archbishop during his five-year post in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic capital, was recalled to the Vatican in 2013. He was later the first person to be arrested inside the Vatican on child abuse charges.

Jozef Wesolowski is pictured during a 2011 ceremony in Santo Domingo when he was still an archbishop and was serving as nuncio to the Dominican Republic. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the archbishop guilty of sexual abuse of minors and has ordered that he be laicized. Photo by Orlando Barria, courtesy of Catholic News Service
Jozef Wesolowski is pictured during a 2011 ceremony in Santo Domingo when he was still an archbishop and was serving as nuncio to the Dominican Republic. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the archbishop guilty of sexual abuse of minors and has ordered that he be laicized. Photo by Orlando Barria, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Jozef Wesolowski is pictured during a 2011 ceremony in Santo Domingo when he was still an archbishop and was serving as nuncio to the Dominican Republic. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the archbishop guilty of sexual abuse of minors and has ordered that he be laicized. Photo by Orlando Barria, courtesy of Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) In an unprecedented move, the Vatican on Monday (June 15) announced its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski, would stand trial on charges he paid for sex with children.

Wesolowski, 66, who had the title archbishop during his five-year post in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic capital, was recalled to the Vatican in 2013. He was later the first person to be arrested inside the Vatican on child abuse charges.

He also faces charges of possessing child pornography during his stay at the Holy See and ahead of his arrest in September 2014, the Vatican said in a statement.

The decision to put Wesolowski, a native of Poland, on trial was announced nine days after a Vatican prosecutor requested the ex-archbishop be indicted. The first hearing is scheduled to take place within the Vatican walls on July 11.

On Monday, the Vatican also accepted the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt  of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, another sign of its willingness to punish bishops for the scandal.

The landmark trial was described by the Vatican as “a delicate and detailed procedure” that will rely on evidence gathered by investigators in Santo Domingo.

Criminal proceedings against Wesolowski come nearly a year after he was defrocked and found guilty of child sexual abuse by a tribunal operating within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, part of the Vatican administration.

Pope Francis has throughout his papacy called for action to be taken on allegations of child sexual abuse and in December stressed that the “truth” must prevail in the Wesolowski investigation.

The upcoming trial will prove to be a test case for the Holy See, which despite Francis’ promises has been criticized by some abuse survivors groups for failing to act.

YS/AMB END SCAMMELL