(QCOSTARICA) High-ranking Vatican official, Jozef Wesolowski, accused of six counts of abuse against minors, set to stand trial in a Holy See court, walked through the corridors of the Papal Apostolic Nunciature (Nunciatura Apostólica Papal in Spanish) in Costa Rica, during the first government of Oscar Arias (1986-1990).
Charged with pedophilia, the former Polish archbishop Wesolowski, now 67, served three years as secretary of the Nunciatura, located in Rohrmoser (one block west of the National stadium), between 1987 and 1989. In other words, was the second in command to the Papal envoy.
His last post before being laicised – the Catholic term for defrocking, that forbids him from doing ministerial work – was the papal envoy to the Dominican Republic for five years.
In 2013, accusations emerged that he was involved in child abuse there, and an investigation was launched by both Dominican and Vatican authorities.
A Vatican criminal hearing opened in September last year. He was indicted by a Vatican prosecutor last month. His diplomatic immunity has also been revoked, which meant that he could potentially have been tried in the Domincan Republic – however, as a city-state, the Vatican has its own courts, and will try him there. The maximum penalty Vatican courts could previously give was life imprisonment, but this was abolished by Pope Francis shortly after he became Pope. Wesolowski could now face the maximum penalty of 30 to 35 years in prison.
It is alleged that Wesolowski paid teenage boys for sex while living in the Dominican Republic. An alleged victim told the New York Times last year that he would trawl the streets, offering poor shoeshine boys large sums of money for sex. Other accounts say Wesolowski would stroll along the boardwalk and pay the equivalent of us$2 for children between 13 and 15 years, in order to see them masturbate and being photographed.
Wesolowski, whom the future John Paul II ordained in Poland in 1972, was quietly recalled by Francis in August 2013.
Wesolowski denies all the charges.
His trial comes amidst a crackdown by Pope Francis, who upon his appointment, promised to take more effective action against paedophile priests and church employees.
The accusations against Wesolowski, however, are the first to be levelled against such a high-profile and important member of the church. Previously, the Pope has said that priests who have sex with children “betray God”, and compared their actions to “a satanic mass”.
During Wesolowski’s time in Costa Rica, the region was going through its violent times, as presidet Arias and Foreign Minister, Rodrigo Madrigal Nieto, worked on a peace placen for Central America. Current President Luis Guillermo Solis, in those days, served as Director of Central American Affairs (Director de Asuntos Centroamericanos).
During that time, apparently no one noticed strange or irregular practices by Wesolowski.
During his stay in Costa Rica, the Polish prelate kept a low profile away from the press, as dictated his position as second in command at the Vatican diplomatic representation, that is not to say he was shy or withdrawn.
On the contrary, the current ambassador of Costa Rica in the Vatican, Marco Vinicio Vargas, remembers Wesolowski as a personable young monsignor, talkative (converson in Spanish) and friendly.
“I can assure you with the truth in hand, I never knew anything of the things for which he is now charged. At least we at the Chancery never had any complaints,” Vargas told La Nacion.
No one at that time suspected or made public allegations of who 20 years later would come to be the papal envoy (Nuncio in Spanish) in the Dominican Republic.
Due to his high-ranking position, Wesolowski maintained frequent contact with high level Costa Rican authorities and foreign diplomats in the country.
“Yes I remember that he was in Costa Rica, at the time I was deputy director of Foreign Policy,” recalled Ricardo Sancho, current ambassador of Costa Rica in Nicaragua.
Despite the high-profile position he held in the country, the department of Privileges and Immunities of the Foreign Ministry has no record of Wesolowski; but career ambassadors and the Nunciatura recall him.
- La Nacion – Exembajador del Papa procesado por pedofilia fue diplomático del Vaticano en Costa Rica
- High-ranking Vatican official Jozef Wesolowski set to stand trial for child abuse