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Thursday, February 2, 2023

A new pedophilia scandal has emerged at Pope Francis’ favorite basilica in Rome

A new scandal of “ordinary pedophilia” rocks the Vatican and, twenty years later, evokes stories of sexual abuse of minors by prelates in the Archdiocese of Boston in the United States, setting off a wave that began at the beginning of the new century. that.. this time in the center Pontifical Basilica of Santa Maria MaggioreOf which Pope Francis is particularly devoted.

The main character is the basilica’s canon, 74-year-old American Monsignor John Abbruzzese, who removed from office and by a final order from Vatican City, accusing her, but without routine procedure, of “unholy” coexistence in her residence with a young Italian man, identified as “Roberto”, who He doesn’t have a real name.

this is the real victim sexual abuse by a priest for at least a decade in Sicily. After this experience as a child and adolescent, “Roberto” appeared recommissioned in the basilica and went to live with the Canonical Abruzzese in his residence.

The story, rich in detail, was denounced by the Roman Morning paper. Yesterday In an investigation by Federica Touran. There is evidence that despite loud cries and promises of systematic persecution of the guilty, Church favors avoiding scandal in complicated matters Instead of dealing with the victims of abusive priests.

In this 2013 photo, Bishop John Abbruzzese, accused of pedophilia, at the Santa Maria Maggiore church in Rome. Photo: TV Capture

A bomb in the heart of the Vatican

The case is doubly scandalous because it is known not to have ended in a trial and to have exploded inside the Vatican, where controls are supposed to be tight. The four pontifical basilicas are in Rome and are ecclesiastical, with sovereignty vesting in the Vatican City State. It is governed by its own rules and not by the Italian legal system.

Santa Maria la Mayor is in the central Esquilino neighborhood, next to the palace that is the seat of the Argentine Embassy of the Italian Government.

Canon John Anthony Abbruzzese, originally from the state of Massachusetts in the US, and who served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, was called in mid-February by the Basilica’s Extraordinary Commissioner, Monsignor Rolandus Makaricus.

The archbishop, Cardinal Stanisław Ralke, and Archbishop Piero Marini were also waiting for him. A reception committee that upset the canon.

Abbruzzese received a letter dated 7 February, signed by the substitute Secretary of State for the Holy See, Monsignor Edgar Peña Parra of Venezuela, in which It was announced that he was fired And he was to return to his diocese of Boston.

Interior Of The Basilica Of Santa Maria Maggiore In Rome, One Of The Favorites Of Pope Francis.  Photo: Victor Sokolovich

Interior of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, one of the favorites of Pope Francis. Photo: Victor Sokolovich

There was no explanation but everyone knew what it was about. Canon was accused, but without trial, of sharing her residence with a young Italian man in his twenties who had suffered nine years of sexual abuse in Sicily, whose name was never published .

Article 11 of the Statute of Santa Maria la Mayor justified the canon’s expulsion from the Pontifical Basilica by the High Prelate of the Secretary of State, one of the Pope’s chief advisers.

There it is stipulated that after three calls to attention, religious who “lead a lifestyle that is not consistent with the dignity and discipline of the chapter” will be removed from the basilica.

The letter recalls that “after repeated and neglected claims” the archpriest of the basilica “even in the presence of witnesses” is forced to remove Monsignor Abbruzzese as substitute.


The letter announced to the chastened Monsignor that the influential Cardinal Patrick O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, “has been warned.”

On 21 February, John Abbruzzese appealed to the Pope against the verdict and defended his innocence. First, he explained to Francisco that he had never received “repeated and neglected claims” and much less “in the presence of witnesses”.

Abruzzese told the Argentine pontiff that the letter from the deputy secretary of state does not explain what the allegation is that justifies the “terrible decision”.

In Front Of The Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore In Rome.  Photo: Victor Sokolovich

In front of the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Photo: Victor Sokolovich

In a letter to Francisco, Abbruzzese says that a few months earlier the archpriest of the basilica, Cardinal Rilco, had told him that he would have to remove “Roberto” from his residence. But they did not give him any “canonical warnings” nor did he receive any documentation of the charges that led to his expulsion from the basilica and the Vatican.

In another letter from the Secretary of State, it is not indicated how Monsignor Abbruzzese can exercise the right of self-defense.

Abruzzese indicated in his letter to the Pope that he accepted the order of Archpriest of the Basilica until 11 January, the date on which “Roberto” left the residence.

The canon wrote to Francisco and declared himself innocent., He explains that Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, another important priest of the basilica, recommended “Roberto” to him as an assistant “24 hours a day”.

case pending more and more rigid, Monsignor Formenti is a figurehead of the Vatican. For many years he was head of the Statistics Office of the Holy See. How could it be that he offered to act as a link between the young Sicilian, who was already involved in a long history of sexual abuse by more than one priest, and the canonical priests of the Pontifical Basilica?

report first sunday“Roberto” was put to work as assistant to Monsignor Emilio Silvestrini, 87, former secretary of the Pontifical Academy of Life and also a canon of the Basilica of Santa Maria la Mayor.

But Silvestrini fell ill with Alzheimer’s disease and after six days “Roberto” resigned from the commission. Formenti then asked Monsignor Abruzzese “to welcome him”.

Pope Francis Has Faced Yet Another Case Of Sexual Abuse At The Vatican.  Photo: Ansa

Pope Francis has faced yet another case of sexual abuse at the Vatican. Photo: ANSA

In his letter to the Pope, Monsignor Abbruzzese adds a controversial crush when he says that he accepted because “other lay people were already hosted by the canonized ones in the basilica.”

Complications arose because two days after Monsignor Abbruzzese’s letter to the Pope, another letter went out from the basilica, this time addressed to Cardinal O’Malley, not only the Archbishop of Boston but also the chairman of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Too.

The letter is signed by Monsignor Valentino Misrachs Grau, dean of Santa Maria la Mayor. In the name of himself and other canonical priests, he expresses feelings of “sincere respect and affection for Monsignor Abbruzzese, a good and generous priest who is experiencing particularly difficult times.”

The canonical letter confirms that Abruzzi “wanted to help people in difficulty, both spiritually and financially, which has been misunderstood by those who do not know him.”

Pope rejects Monsignor Abbruzzese’s appeal and confirmed the decision to send him back to his diocese of Boston. But the canon did not leave the basilica until 26 April when the Pontifical Gendarmerie informed him of the ban on entry into the Vatican. Internal police went to his residence and physically removed him from the Vatican State.

Tracks of Monsignor Abbruzzese have since been lost, and he may have returned to Boston. Nor is it known whether it was “Roberto” who was the main victim of abuse by pedophile priests.

The Great Boston Scandal

The case takes on a special resonance because twenty years later it brings back to collective memory the first major sex abuse scandal to emerge in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Its archbishop was Cardinal Bernard Law, who for years devoted himself to relocating priests accused of abuse. One of them was Father John Geoghan, Arrested in 2002 and murdered in prison a year later, Jaughan was credited with 130 victims in thirty years of priesthood.

One of his altar boys was John Abbruzzese.

The scandal became so big in Boston that the newspapersBoston Globe Began an award-winning investigation that later became the acclaimed film “The Spotlight Case”.

The Church was silent like Cardinal Law and when the investigation revealed that a future prison for the High Prelate was becoming a reality, the Holy See decided to cover it up. They named him Archpriest of the Basilica of Santa María la Mayor, sheltered him in the priesthood and granted him the corresponding Vatican citizenship.

A chapel in the basilica houses the remains of Cardinal Bernard Law, who died in 2017.

Pope Maria Salles of Argentina is a great devotee of the icon cult of the Populi Romani. Every time he travels abroad and comes straight back from the airport, George Bergoglio appears in the basilica to pray in front of an icon of the Virgin Mary in its chapel.

vatican correspondent


see also

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