Vatican Lifts Jurisdictional Immunity For Envoy

Photo Credit: Paris Digest

The Vatican’s envoy to France is under investigation for sexual assault after being accused of molesting an official at the Paris mayor’s office. Italian-born Archbishop Luigi Ventura is a career diplomat at the Vatican. He previously served in Brazil, Bolivia, and Britain before being appointed papal nuncio to the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger, Chile and then Canada, according to his website.

Ventura, 74, is accused of molesting a male city hall employee in Paris on January 17, 2019 during the mayor, Anne Hidalgo’s address to diplomats, religious leaders and civil society figures. Archbishop Ventura was there for the feast of St Anne, as the shrine was celebrating its 350th anniversary. Parisian authorities have been investigating the allegation for several months. Another man claimed the diplomat had also molested him in Canada in 2008.

The first man alleged that Archbishop Ventura touched his buttocks at least twice while he was serving him. He also said the nuncio tried to engage in conversation with him, but he did not want to speak.

“During the meal, I was on edge. I was shocked. I was shocked by what he did. This is the complete opposite of the dignity that comes with its function. I was scandalized,” he told Presence info, a French-language Canadian news service.

It is possible for the official's home country to waive immunity; but this tends to happen only when the individual has committed a serious crime, unconnected with their diplomatic role as opposed to, say, allegations of spying or sexual assault.

Nathalie Loiseau, France’s minister of European affairs, urged the Vatican to waive immunity. “At this point, [Ventura] benefits from diplomatic immunity, but the Holy See is clearly aware of the serious accusations that have been brought against the apostolic nuncio and I don’t doubt for a second that the Holy See will do the right thing,” Loiseau said.

Alessandro Gisotti, the interim head of Vatican communications, confirmed the archbishop’s immunity had been waived.

“I can confirm that the Holy See renounces jurisdictional immunity enjoyed by the apostolic nuncio in France, Msgr Luigi Ventura, by virtue of the Vienna convention of 18 April 1961 on diplomatic relations, for the purposes of criminal proceedings concerning him,” he said.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis summoned bishops from around the world to Rome for a summit on the issue and later issued a decree making it mandatory for all Catholic priests and nuns to report sexual abuse and its cover-up to church authorities. Let’s hope that sexual abuse be punished more strictly in the future.

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