By Vakkas Dogantekin
ANKARA (AA) - A criminal prosecutor in Argentina has requested arrest of Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, who currently lives in the Vatican City State at the Domus Santa Marta, the same hotel at which Pope Francis resides.
Zanchetta is accused of sexually abusing two seminarians and could face three to 10 years in prison if he is convicted, according to Catholic News Agency (CNA).
Criminally charged in June, Zanchetta was also suspended from a position at the Vatican’s central bank, where he was appointed an "assessor" by Pope Francis in 2017.
Maria Soledad Filtrin Cuezzo, a prosecutor of sexual crimes in Oran -- a city in northwest province of Salta -- has requested international assistance in Zanchetta’s arrest, because the bishop has not responded to repeated phone calls or emails, according to local media reports.
Despite Cuezzo's attempts to keep him in the country, Zanchetta was permitted to leave the country, according to El Tribuno, after he presented a document showing that he is a Vatican employee.
Zanchetta allegedly have sent sexually explicit selfies from his cell phone, harassed seminarians, and mismanaged the finances of the Diocese of Oran, which he led from 2014 until his resignation in 2017, citing health reasons.
But only a few months after his arrival to Vatican, Pope Francis, himself an Argentine, promoted him to a newly-created position that oversees Vatican’s assets and real estate holdings.
According to a February report from El Tribuno, one of the secretaries of the bishop notified authorities after she accidentally found sexually explicit images sent and received on Zanchetta’s cell phone in 2015.
In his defense, Zanchetta claimed that his phone and computer had been hacked, which sufficed to convince Pope Francis who summoned Zanchetta to Rome for five days in October 2015 and dismissed the allegations.
Yet, under pressure, the Pope said in January that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is now investigating Zanchetta.
According to CNA, whether the bishop will be apprehended in the Vatican and extradited to Argentina remains to be seen.