Luigi Ventura, the Pope’s representative in France who is facing at least three accusations of sexual assault, has retreated to the Vatican, reports have claimed.
Driving the news
I.Media, a French outlet specialised in Church reporting, learned at the end of September that Ventura is now living in a Church-owned residence for elderly priests near St. Peter’ Square, in Rome.
Ventura was due to offer his resignation to the Pope in December when he turns 75, the mandatory retirement age for Church office holders, I.Media said.
But according to sources, Ventura left his post as early as last summer, spending his holidays outside France.
Adviser to the papal mission in Paris Monsignor Andrea Ferrante has taken over from Ventura until a new nuncio is appointed, La Croix said.
A new papal ambassador could be appointed any day, with Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, current Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – the Church’s ‘Supreme Court’ – being tipped for the role.
Nuncio in Paris since 2009, 74-year-old Italian Ventura is accused of the sexual assault of at least three young men.
The complaints are before courts both in France but also in Canada, where Ventura was stationed before coming to Paris.
The papal diplomat has denied the allegations, but in July, the Holy See waived his diplomatic immunity, thus paving the way for a trial in France.
Fréty recalled that although French authorities had requested the nuncio’s prosecution, they hadn’t imposed on him any travel bans.
“We hope that [Ventura] will respond to any summons that may be sent to him. If that were not the case, it would be contrary to everything that the Vatican says on the fight against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church”, the lawyer added.
Mathieu de la Souchère, a young man who filed a complaint against the nuncio in February, added that he is worried about the sluggishness of the procedure against Ventura.
“Since the lifting of diplomatic immunity, nothing has happened,” de la Souchère lamented to Libération.
La Croix said that even if he is now in Italy, Ventura would have to return to Paris if summoned by the courts.
If found guilty of assault, the nuncio could face up to 5 years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros.
If the court determines that the assault was aggravated – as by an abuse of Ventura’s power and authority, for example – that sentence could be increased to 10 years’ jail and a 100,000 euro penalty.
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