The 31-year-old Martinelli was ordained to the priesthood in 2017 and is a priest in the Diocese of Como in northern Italy and a member of the “Opera don Folci,” a religious association centered on the formation of priests.
The St. Pius X pre-seminary, where Martinelli was enrolled, offers a formation in the liturgical functions of St. Peter’s Basilica, including papal Masses, for middle and high school boys who are considering a vocation to the priesthood.
The institute was formerly located in Palazzo San Carlo, in Piazza Santa Marta, in the Vatican, just steps away from Pope Francis’ official residence of Casa Santa Marta. However, given the controversy surrounding the cover-up of abuse and Martinelli’s trial, Pope Francis announced the decision to move the pre-seminary to a new location outside Vatican City in 2021.
The allegations against the priest were first reported by Italian journalists in 2017 and by the Associated Press in 2018. At the time, the Vatican was unable to proceed with a case against Martinelli given that the charges were brought against him outside of the one-year statute of limitations.
On June 29, 2019, Pope Francis intervened to allow the case to proceed by lifting the cause of inadmissibility.
On Dec. 8, 2021, the pope in his broader efforts to be more transparent in the handling of sexual abuse cases introduced a sweeping revision to canon law. The revisions introduced new penalties for the cover-up of sexual abuse, mandated that allegations of abuse be immediately reported, and reclassified sexual crimes from under the title of “Crimes Against Special Obligations” to “Offenses Against Human Life, Dignity, and Liberty.”