France investigates Vatican envoy over abuse accusations

The Vatican flag flies on the Vatican Embassy in Paris on Friday. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE
Feb. 16 (UPI) — Authorities are investigating the Vatican’s envoy to France over accusations of sexual misconduct, French and Vatican officials said Friday.Archbishop Luigi Ventura, diplomat to France since 2009, is accused of inappropriately touching a male staffer at Paris City Hall. The conduct happened repeatedly during a New Year ceremony held by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, officials said.The Vatican said it was aware of the allegations and was awaiting the outcome of the investigation.An unnamed spokesman for the French judiciary told The New York Times the Paris prosecutors’ office opened the probe Jan. 24. The source said the alleged victim worked for Paris’ international relations department and was tasked with greeting Ventura before the New Year’s event Jan. 17 at Paris City Hall.The investigation comes amid scrutiny of the Catholic Church, which has faced a number of abuse scandals across the globe. Over the past year, hundreds of clergy members have been accused of misconduct in dioceses in California, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania Texas and Virginia. Chile, Australia and Ireland also have been dealing with their own scandals.

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In January, Pope Francis issued a letter to bishops in the United States, warning them that lingering clerical sex abuse scandals have damaged the Church in the country.

“In recent years, the Church in the United States has been shaken by various scandals that have gravely affected its credibility,” the pope wrote. “These have been times of turbulence in the lives of all those victims who suffered in their flesh the abuse of power and conscience and sexual abuse on the part of ordained ministers, male and female religious and lay faithful.

“The church has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes, but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them,” he added.

Francis called for a new approach to the church’s mindset and the exercising of power, money and authority.

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