An Argentine bishop close to the Pope is being tried in the Vatican on charges of sexually abusing seminarians
The facts were disclosed by the Pope on Tuesday during an interview with a Mexican television network.
Pope Francis discussed the case during an interview with Televisa, explaining that two weeks ago, following the conclusions of a preliminary investigation into bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, he ordered the case to be tried by a Vatican court.
Zanchetta suddenly resigned as bishop of Oran, Argentina, in 2017, and a few months later, the Pope appointed him to a high position in the Vatican's administrative structure.
Citing documents and interviews, the Associated Press and Argentina's Tribuna de Salta reported that the Vatican was aware of Zanchetta's inappropriate sexual behavior two years before he resigned.
The Vatican insisted that Zanchetta was only facing administrative issues and that the first allegation of sexual abuse arose only in late 2018.
During the interview, the Pope said that he himself questioned Zanchetta about the first charges against him, dating back to 2015, which involved inappropriate 'selfies' on his mobile phone.
The Pope explained that he gave Zanchetta the benefit of the doubt when the latter argued that his phone had been "hacked."
A year later, documents prove that Oran's seminary rector was so concerned about Zanchetta's behavior that he filed a formal complaint with the Vatican ambassador, saying that "urgent measures" were necessary to protect his first-year students, as the introductory classes were held at Zanchetta's residence.
Francisco accepted Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta's resignation in August 2017, after priests in the remote Argentine diocese of Oran complained about his authoritarian rule and a former vicar, a seminary rector and another prelate sent reports to the Vatican alleging abuses of power, inappropriate behavior, and sexual harassment of adult seminarians.
The Pope's decision to allow Zanchetta, 54, to quietly resign and then promote him to a new No. 2 position in one of the Vatican's most sensitive offices has raised questions about whether Francis turned a blind eye to the misconduct of his subordinates or dismissed allegations against them as ideological attacks.
Juan Jose Manzano, a former Oran vicar general who is now a parish priest, said he was one of the diocesan officials who raised the alarm about his boss in 2015 by sending the digital selfies to the Vatican.