Vatican envoy to France under investigation for sexual assault

The Vatican’s envoy to France is being investigated for sexual assault after he was accused of molesting an official at the Paris mayor’s office during a ceremony last month, a judicial source told AFP.

Ludovic Marin, AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron (L) shakes hands with Apostolic Nuncio to France Luigi Ventura during his New Year wishes to the diplomatic corps on January 4, 2018, at the Elysée Palace in Paris.

The envoy, Luigi Ventura, has been based in Paris since 2009 and serves as a diplomat for Pope Francis.

He was accused of molesting a man at Paris's City Hall on January 17 where mayor Anne Hidalgo gave a New Year’s address to diplomats, religious leaders and civil society figures.

"During the ceremony, a city employee was repeatedly groped on the backside, in three instances, once in front of a witness," a City Hall source told Agence France-Presse.

"It was quickly decided to report the matter to the public prosecutor," said Patrick Klugman, deputy mayor responsible for international relations.

The complaint was filed by the mayor’s office on January 24 which led to an investigation being opened the day after, the judicial source said.

The victim, a man in his 30s, also works in the City Hall's international relations' department.

Le Monde newspaper first reported the investigation and the allegations against Ventura on Friday.

Crowning achievement

Ventura, who was born in northern Italy near the city of Brescia, turned 74 in December. He was ordained a priest in June 1969 and elevated to bishops’ rank in March 1995. He was appointed nuncio to France in September 2009 by Benedict XVI, a position regarded as the crowning achievement of a Vatican diplomatic career.

After serving as nuncio to Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger, he then held the position in Chile and Canada before landing the French post.

When he turns 75 in December 2019, he will be required, as all bishops are at that age under Vatican rules, to submit his resignation to Pope Francis, who can either accept it or let him stay on a little longer.

Ventura is the third Vatican diplomat accused of sexual wrongdoing. In June last year, the Vatican tribunal convicted Monsignor Carlo Capella of possession and distribution of child pornography and sentenced him to five years in prison. In 2013, the Vatican charged its then ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Monsignor Jozef Wesolowski, with sexually abusing young boys. Wesolowski was defrocked by the Vatican’s church court, but he died before the Vatican’s criminal trial got under way.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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