Local June 27, 2014 | 9:29 am

Ex Vatican envoy to Dominican Republic convicted of sexual abuse

Vatican City.- Bishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s ex-ambassador to Dominican Republic was convicted by church court of sexually abusing boys in the Caribbean nation, and defrocked, AP reports.

The conviction comes just 48 hours after Santo Domingo Archdiocese Auxiliary bishop Victor Masalles complained that he had seen Wesolowski roaming the streets of Rome.

The Vatican said Wesolowski was found guilty by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in recent days, and sentenced to the harshest penalty possible against a cleric under canon law: laicization, meaning he can no longer perform priestly duties or present himself as a priest.

AP reports that Wesolowski has two months to appeal. As a papal diplomat and citizen of the Vatican City State, he also faces criminal charges by the tribunal of Vatican City, which can carry a prison term. The Vatican said it would take "adequate measures" to ensure he doesn’t flee pending the outcome of that investigation.

The Polish-born Wesolowski was recalled on Aug. 21, and relieved him of his job after Santo Domingo archbishop and Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez told Pope Francis about rumors that Wesolowski had sexually abused teenage boys in the Dominican capital.

“Dominican authorities subsequently opened an investigation, but haven’t charged him. Poland, too, opened an investigation into Wesolowski and a friend and fellow Polish priest,” AP reports.

Wesolowski was the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for alleged sex abuse, and his case had raised questions about whether the Vatican, by extracting him from Dominican jurisdiction, was protecting him and placing its own investigations ahead of that of authorities in the Caribbean nation.

Polish link

The case has been particularly delicate because Wesolowski was ordained both a priest and a bishop by his Polish countryman and former pope, St. John Paul II.

Questions were also raised in the Dominican Republic about the link between the former envoy with Wojciech Gil (Padre Alberto), another Polish priest charged with sexual abuse of at least five boys in the highland town of Juncalito, Santiago.

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