Vatican City — A monsignor who had been recalled to the Vatican as a diplomat in the Holy See’s Washington Embassy was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of possessing child pornography in the United States and Canada.
Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella was arrested by the Vatican police on a warrant issued by the Holy See’s chief magistrate, the Vatican said in a statement.
Monsignor Capella, who was recalled from the Vatican Embassy in August, was arrested according to articles of a 2013 law signed by Pope Francis. The articles cited by the statement related to child pornography.
If indicted, the monsignor will have to stand trial in the Vatican and face up to 12 years in prison on conviction.
The arrest was the latest blow to the Roman Catholic Church as it struggles to overcome repeated cases of sexual abuse among its clergy. The case was also the worst involving a diplomat since that of former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who in 2013 faced charges of paying boys for sexual acts and downloading and buying pedophile material while he was the Vatican’s ambassador in the Dominican Republic.
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The pontiff has declared zero tolerance for the abuse that has plagued the Church for decades, but critics say he has not done enough, particularly in holding bishops responsible for mishandling or covering up misconduct.
The State Department first notified the Holy See in August of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the Holy See’s diplomatic corps accredited to Washington, the Vatican said in September.
A State Department spokesman said then that the United States had requested that the man’s diplomatic immunity be waived to open the way for a possible prosecution there, but the Vatican had refused. The Vatican did not identify the cleric, but Italian news media reports and an American official familiar with the investigation said it was Monsignor Capella.
He could not be reached for comment; the Vatican said he was being held in a cell in the Vatican’s police barracks.
Monsignor Capella entered the diplomatic corps in 2004, and before serving in Washington, he held diplomatic posts in Hong Kong and Italy.
After the monsignor was recalled to Rome, the police in Windsor, Canada, said they had issued an arrest warrant for him on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography on the internet.
A statement by the Canadian police at the time said the suspected offenses occurred while he was visiting “a place of worship” in the country.
Archbishop Wesolowski was recalled to Rome by the Vatican, arrested and stripped of his duties after a report by the Dominican news media led to an investigation by Dominican magistrates.
He died in a hospital in 2015 at 67, before his trial before a Vatican court could begin.
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