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World News

Ex-Vatican ambassador to France goes on trial on sexual molestation charges

PARIS (Reuters) - The Vatican’s former ambassador to France goes on trial in Paris on Tuesday accused of molesting four men in the latest sex scandal to rock the Roman Catholic church.

Prosecutors opened an investigation after a junior official at Paris City Hall accused papal nuncio Luigi Ventura, then 74, of molestation in January 2019, and city authorities filed a complaint to the Paris prosecutor.

Ventura’s lawyer has denied the allegations.

The Vatican last year lifted Ventura’s diplomatic immunity and he resigned from his post in December.

A Paris City Hall official told Reuters last year that in January 2019, during Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s New Year address, Ventura caressed the junior official’s buttocks repeatedly.

Since then, three other men have come forward with similar allegations.

Jade Dousselin, a lawyer for one of the men, a City Hall community manager who was 39 at the time, said her client had been molested in 2018.

Ventura’s lawyer, Bertrand Ollivier, could not immediately be reached for comment. He told Europe 1 radio in July that his client would attend the court session to defend his honour and his innocence and that he strongly rejects the accusations.

Ventura was papal envoy in France from 2008 to 2019, following postings in several African countries and in Canada.

The Roman Catholic Church worldwide has been hit by a string of sexual abuse scandals, often involving children, over the past 20 years.

A French appeals court in January overturned a ruling against a Roman Catholic cardinal who was convicted last year of failing to report sexual abuse charges.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Nick Macfie

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