Former envoy under arrest

VATICAN CITY – A former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic has been placed under house arrest in what may be the first stage of criminal proceedings by the Holy See in a case of sexual abuse of children.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi yesterday said Pope Francis had personally ordered swift action in the case of Polish former archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was convicted of sex abuse by a church tribunal in June and defrocked pending further criminal proceedings.

Mr Lombardi said the legal move was “the result of the Pope’s express wish for a case this serious and sensitive to be dealt with without delay, with the necessary scrupulousness and full undertaking of responsibility on the part of the institutions which head up the Holy See”.

If the case goes to trial, it will be the first for sex abuse within the tiny city state. Mr Wesolowski’s defrocking came six months after the UN children’s rights watchdog highlighted his case as an example of the Vatican’s failure to take concrete actions to prove its commitment to stamp out the abuse of minors by priests.