Missing Vatican ambassador recalled following child abuse accusations in Dominican Republic

Holy See says it is investigating reports in Dominican local media that its envoy, Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, abused altar boys

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The Independent US

A Catholic priest has been relieved of his role as ambassador for the Vatican to the Dominican Republic after local news reports accused him of paedophilia.

Archbishop Josef Wesolowski had been the nuncio, an envoy representing the interests of the church leadership, in the capital of Santo Domingo for nearly six years.

That was until Dominican television network NCDN, quoting the director of a community group called Pedro Espinal, ran a story saying Archbishop Wesolowski and a fellow Polish priest took several altar boys back to his beach house and slept in the same room as them.

Both prosecutors in the country and Vatican officials have begun separate investigations into the conduct of Archbishop Wesolowski – but neither knows where he is now.

A spokesman for the church, Father Federico Lombardi, said the priest in question had been recalled “in the last few weeks” after they became aware of the reports.

“He has been relieved of his duties and the Holy See has begun an investigation,” Father Lombardi said.

Dominican Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito made clear to reporters that his office had received no official accusations or complaints about Archbishop Wesolowski, and that the authorities in both countries were currently acting on the basis of local media reports alone.

There was some concern among prosecutors that they may never be able to question the priest over the accusations, both because he could receive immunity in his position as a diplomat and because his location is currently unknown. Local media say he left the country in early August.

Mr Dominguez Brito told reporters the investigation would have to take into account national and international law, “given his status as a diplomat”, while the district prosecutor Yeni Berenice Reynoso called for the archbishop to be “investigated and punished in the (Dominican Republic) and not in the Holy See”.

Facing investigations at the same time as Archbishop Wesolowski is his friend and fellow Pole Wojciech Gil.

Rev Gil was suspended back in May following accusations of child abuse, but was on vacation in Poland at the time, and his whereabouts are also unknown.