Bishop Zanchetta faces trial on sexual abuse charges in October

zanchetta smaller 1 Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta. | ACI Prensa.

Argentine Catholic Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta will go on trial on sexual abuse charges in October.

The public prosecutor’s office of the Argentine province of Salta announced on Aug. 6 that the trial would take place on Oct. 12-15.

Zanchetta was given a Vatican post by Pope Francis after he resigned as bishop of Orán, northwest Argentina, in 2017.

The 57-year-old bishop is charged with simple sexual abuse, aggravated by being committed by an officially recognized minister of religion, against two men identified only by their initials, G.G.F.L. and C.M.

Zanchetta has denied the allegations.

“The former bishop [of Orán] was summoned under penalty of law and at least 39 witnesses are expected to testify during the hearing,” the public prosecutor’s office said.

Pope Francis named Zanchetta as bishop of Orán on July 23, 2013, in one of his first episcopal appointments in his homeland of Argentina.

After resigning as the head of Orán diocese for “health reasons” at the age of 53, Zanchetta was appointed to the specially created position of assessor at the Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA).

APSA oversees the Vatican’s real estate holdings and other sovereign assets.

Argentine media have reported that Zanchetta was first accused of sexually inappropriate behavior as early as 2015, two years before he arrived at the Vatican.

But the Vatican has repeatedly denied having prior knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against Zanchetta before his December 2017 appointment to APSA.

According to a report from El Tribuno, a newspaper in Salta Province, one of Zanchetta’s secretaries alerted authorities after discovering sexually explicit images sent and received on Zanchetta’s cell phone in 2015.

The complaint said that some of the images depicted “young people” having sex, in addition to lewd images of Zanchetta himself.

Pope Francis summoned Zanchetta to Rome for five days in October 2015. The bishop claimed that his phone and computer had been hacked, and that the accusations were motivated by ill-feeling towards the pope. The pope accepted the bishop’s explanation that his cell phone had been hacked.

The pope defended his decision-making regarding Zanchetta in an interview with the Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki published in May 2019 by Vatican News. He said that he had continuously sought to clarify the accusations against Zanchetta.

After Zanchetta was charged in relation to his actions against two men in July 2019, Orán’s Economic Crime Unit raided offices in the chancery in November 2019. The raid was carried out to investigate Zanchetta’s alleged fraud against the state, according to the local newspaper El Oranense.

In addition to accusations of mismanaging Church funds donated by the faithful in the diocese, public records show that Zanchetta received more than a million Argentine pesos (around $10,500) from Salta Province to restore a rectory and for lectures at a seminary, which allegedly never took place.

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Pope Francis defended his appointment of Zanchetta to APSA in his interview with Valentina Alazraki. He said that, although the bishop’s approach to economic management in Orán had been “disorderly,” the “vision is good.”

The accused bishop was suspended from his role as an assessor at APSA amid a canonical investigation, announced in January 2019.

In June 2020, the Vatican confirmed that Zanchetta had returned to work at APSA while “remaining available to the Argentine judicial authorities.”

A source working at APSA told CNA in June that the Argentine bishop had finished his service at the Vatican’s central reserve bank.

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