ROME – A former papal ambassador and Archbishop, Jozef Wesolowski, 66, accused of sexually abusing minors has been hospitalized in an intensive care unit — pushing back his trial once set to start Saturday in Vatican City.
A judge subsequently held a short hearing and adjourned Wesolowski’s trial to a yet undetermined date, the Vatican Press Office said. It did not provide any details on his condition.
Wesolowski is the highest-ranking former Vatican official arrested for alleged sexual abuse of minors. He is also the first tried on such charges at the Vatican.
In addition to sexual abuse allegations, he is accused of possession of child pornography during his time as papal nuncio — or ambassador — to the Dominican Republic.
The Vatican, which operates as a city-state, has its own judicial system.
Links to Child Abuse
The Vatican said it was investigating Wesolowski two years ago, and it defrocked him last year.
An internal church report linked him to child abuse and pedophilia, said Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, a Catholic University rector.
At the time, Dominican Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito said Wesolowski’s case has various ramifications.
“Here we have to work with two legal aspects, first national laws and also international laws in his status as a diplomat, which implies other mechanisms of investigation and judgment,” he said.
Test of Pope’s Ruling
Pope Francis announced in 2013 that he was extending the court’s jurisdiction in sex abuse cases to include papal diplomats, making Wesolowski’s case the first test of the ruling.
He is not only charged with offenses during his five years as nuncio of the Dominican Republic, but also with child pornography charges committed in Rome between August 2013, when he was recalled, and September 2014, when he was arrested.
Pornographic Images and videos
Last year, Italy’s Corriere della Sera reported that Wesolowski’s laptop contained more than 100,000 files with pornographic images and videos, some showing naked teens ages 13 to 17 forced to have sexual relations with each other or with adults.
After his election to the papacy, Francis told a senior Vatican official to “act decisively” against sexual abuse and carry out “due proceedings against the guilty.”
He also made it a crime to abuse children sexually or physically on Vatican grounds. The acts were already crimes under church law, but are now specifically outlawed within the Vatican city-state, which is home to hundreds of people.
Before arriving in the Dominican Republic seven years ago, Wesolowski was nuncio to Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
He began his career as a priest in Poland in 1972, and became a bishop in 2000.
The trial was postponed as Pope Francis visits Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay.