The former Vatican nuncio in France, Dom Luigi Ventura, 75, begins to be tried on Tuesday in Paris, for allegedly sexually assaulting five men in the exercise of their diplomatic functions, which he denies. The information is from the AFP agency.
The case came to light in February 2019, amid a wave of sexual scandals in the Catholic Church, and led the Holy See to lift the diplomatic immunity of the former apostolic nuncio, a measure unprecedented in the modern history of Vatican diplomacy.
According to AFP, the French prosecutor’s office opened an investigation in early 2019, after a 28-year-old Paris city hall official reported that Ventura palpated his ass during a city hall warning.
Following this first complaint, four other men came out of silence and reported similar events involving the Italian prelate during public events in France, between January 2018 and February 2019.
The Vatican lifted its diplomatic immunity in July 2019.
What the defense says
“Monsignor Ventura eagerly awaits this trial in order to be able to explain himself, so that he can shed light on his case and so that his innocence is recognized”, his lawyer, Solange Doumic, told AFP.
According to the lawyer, “he himself asked for the waiver of diplomatic immunity to explain himself before the courts”.
The civil party lawyers argue, however, that the waiver of immunity was the result of a “fight” by the plaintiffs.
In February 2019, three of them had publicly asked the French head of state to act on this matter.
“My client expects the court to hear him and recognize him as a victim”, said Elise Arfi, a lawyer for Mathieu de La Souchère, who was the first to publicly denounce Ventura.
The crime of sexual assault can be punished with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros in France.