A French criminal court found an Italian archbishop guilty of sexual assault against four men and handed him, in absentia, an eight-month suspended prison sentence.
The court in Paris also ordered Archbishop Luigi Ventura, 76, to pay nearly 13,000 euros in compensation to four victims for “pain and suffering” and 9,000 euros in legal costs, according to Agence France-Presse.
The conviction also meant the Ministry of Justice automatically registered him as a sex offender.
The archbishop, who was nuncio to France at the time the alleged incidents occurred, has denied the charges against him, and his lawyer said they would be considering an appeal.
The conviction came after French prosecutors had launched a formal investigation in 2019 into an allegation by a city official that the Vatican diplomat molested him by groping his buttocks. Three other men, including a seminarian, later filed similar complaints of sexual assault or molestation between January 2018 and February 2019. A fifth man, who was also a civil servant, also reported an incident, but did not file a complaint.
The archbishop was not present for the trial on 10th November or the court’s verdict on 16th December. He had submitted a doctor’s note citing the dangers of travelling during a global pandemic.
The Vatican waived the diplomat’s immunity in July 2019 in light of the criminal proceedings that had begun against him in France, and Pope Francis accepted the archbishop’s resignation “for reasons of age,” on 17th December, 2019, eight days after the archbishop turned 75, the age at which bishops must offer their resignations.
After French officials had reported their investigation, the apostolic nunciature in Ottawa, Ontario, confirmed it also had received a complaint of sexual misconduct concerning Archbishop Ventura, who was the Vatican’s ambassador to Canada from 2001 to 2009.
The archbishop had also served as nuncio to Chile for two years, from 1999 to 2001 and, before that, in Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger from 1995 to 1999.