Bishop jailed for sexual abuse in Argentina, Latest World News

BUENOS AIRES (REUTERS) – A bishop accused of sexually abusing young men studying to be priests was found guilty by a court in northern Argentina on Friday (March 4), after a week of often graphic testimony in the latest criminal abuse case to hit the Catholic Church.

The high-profile trial played out in the home country of Pope Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires and the first Latin American pontiff of the Church.

Gustavo Zanchetta, the former bishop of Oran in Argentina’s northern province of Salta, was convicted of sexually abusing two former seminarians, which prosecutors said in a statement was aggravated due to his status as a cleric.

The court handed down a prison sentence of 4½ years, to begin immediately.

Zanchetta had denied all charges in the criminal trial, as well as a separate Vatican canon law investigation, insisting he had “a good and healthy relationship” with all seminarians, according to summaries of the closed-door trial provided by the local judiciary.

“We’re going to appeal,” his lawyer Javier Belda told Reuters in an email.

Summaries of testimony provided by the judiciary included witnesses describing unwanted touching and sexual advances by the bishop, as well as requests for massages and gifts he doled out to seminarians he was said to favor.

Other witnesses testified to the discovery of porn on the bishop’s phone as well as a history of visiting pornographic websites on a church computer he used.

Zanchetta often spoke about his close friendship with the pope, according to trial testimony.

The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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