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Vatican indicts former ambassador to Dominican Republic on sex abuse charges

FILE - This March 15, 2013 file photo shows Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, papal nuncio for the Dominican Republic, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Vatican's former ambassador to the Dominican Republic has been charged with sexually abusing young boys in the Caribbean country and having child pornography on his computer and will stand trial next month in a Vatican court. In a statement, the Holy See said Jozef Wesolowski will have his first hearing July 11. (AP Photo/Manuel Diaz, File)

FILE - This March 15, 2013 file photo shows Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, papal nuncio for the Dominican Republic, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Vatican's former ambassador to the Dominican Republic has been charged with sexually abusing young boys in the Caribbean country and having child pornography on his computer and will stand trial next month in a Vatican court. In a statement, the Holy See said Jozef Wesolowski will have his first hearing July 11. (AP Photo/Manuel Diaz, File)

The Vatican's former ambassador to the Dominican Republic has been indicted on charges he sexually abused young boys in the Caribbean country and had child pornography on his computer and will stand trial next month in a Vatican court.

The Holy See said Monday that Jozef Wesolowski will have his first hearing July 11, the first time such a high-ranking Vatican official will stand trial for sex abuse.

The Holy See recalled Wesolowski in 2013 after rumors surfaced in Santo Domingo that he allegedly paid shoeshine boys to masturbate. Wesolowski has since been defrocked and placed under modified house arrest inside Vatican City pending a decision by the Vatican criminal court on whether to indict him.

That decision came June 6, when the Vatican prosecutor asked the head of the Vatican City State tribunal to indict him — a decision that was announced Monday.

The case has been highly sensitive, given that the Polish-born Wesolowski was an ambassador of the Holy See — a direct representative of the pope and not just one of the world's 440,000 priests — and had been ordained both a priest and a bishop by St. John Paul II.

Last year, a Holy See tribunal found him guilty under canon law of abusing young boys and defrocked him, the harshest sentence under church law that can be meted out. Now, the case goes to the Vatican's criminal courts, which can impose jail time if he is found guilty.

As a papal diplomat and citizen of the Vatican City State, Wesolowski is also subject to the jurisdiction of the Vatican City State, which in 2013 updated its laws to specifically criminalize possession of child pornography.

The Vatican said Wesolowski is accused of having porn while he was in Rome from August 2013, when he was recalled, until his arrest Sept. 22, 2014, meaning that the new law can apply.

The 2013 legislation also specifically criminalized sexual abuse of children, but the accusations against Wesolowski stem from before the law was passed, meaning the old law would presumably have to apply.

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