Former Argentina bishop denies sex abuse claims at trial
Church | abuse | Argentina | trial
Buenos Aires, Argentina | AFP | Monday 2/21/2022 - 16:57 UTC-5 | 170 words
A retired Argentine bishop seen as close to the Pope, and who worked as an advisor for management of Vatican property, on Monday denied charges of sex abuse allegedly committed a decade ago.
Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta, 57, appeared behind closed doors in the court of San Ramón de la Nueva Orán, where he was bishop from his appointment by Pope Francis in 2013 until his resignation in 2017.
Orán is some 1,700 km (1,050 miles) north of Buenos Aires in Salta Province.
Zanchetta, who travelled from the Vatican to attend the hearings, is charged with "simple sexual abuse continued and aggravated by being committed by a recognised minister of religious worship," according to a statement from judicial officials in Salta.
A local judicial official told AFP that Zanchetta pleaded not guilty to charges of sex abuse brought in 2018 by at least two seminary students. They allege the events took place in 2014 and 2015.
The court also heard the evidence of two complainants, one of whom claimed the bishop had made approaches towards him, and asked for "massages."
Zanchetta denies the allegations against him and says the complaint against him is motivated by "revenge."
Some 38 witnesses will testify during the trial.
In 2017 Zanchetta suddenly resigned as pastoral director of the diocese of Orán. A few months later he was appointed advisor for real estate management at the Vatican.
The Holy See has said that at the time of Zanchetta's resignation in 2017, there were no sex abuse claims against him. In 2019, the Church opened an investigation suspended him from advisory duties.
At the time, the Vatican press admitted that there were known allegations of "authoritarianism" against Zanchetta but not of sexual abuse.
In addition to this case, the former bishop has two other cases open in Argentina, for alleged economic mismanagement and abuse of power.
The Catholic Church, which forbids priests from marrying, has been repeatedly rocked by child sex abuse scandals around the world over the last three decades.