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Autopsy finds former nuncio charged with abuse died of heart attack

Former archbishop Józef Wesołowski pictured in Santo Domingo in 2009 (CNS)

An autopsy revealed the ex-papal nuncio, who was awaiting a Vatican trial on charges including the sexual abuse of minors, died of a heart attack, the Vatican said.

The laicised former archbishop, Jozef Wesolowski, died of natural causes, specifically, “acute myocardial infarction,” and “other external factors” were ruled out, the Vatican said in a statement on Friday.

Vatican magistrates had postponed a criminal trial against the former nuncio in July due to the defendant’s ill health.

The proceedings had been adjourned until an unspecified future date because the defendant had been sent to an intensive care unit in a public hospital in Rome after experiencing a “sudden illness” on the afternoon of July 10 — the day before he was scheduled to appear at the trial’s opening session.

The 67-year-old Polish national, who also had Vatican City State citizenship, died in a Vatican residence on August 27.

While initial autopsy results released in August said he died of a “cardiac incident,” the Vatican City’s promoter of justice appointed a forensics team to conduct an investigation that followed internationally recognised protocols, the Vatican statement said.

The coroners handed their final report detailing their chemical and toxicology tests to the Vatican City court on December 14. The report “definitively confirmed” the initial postmortem exam that “the death was attributable to a natural event” of cardiac arrest.

Vatican prosecutors had formally indicted Wesolowski on five charges, including the sexual abuse of minors in the Dominican Republic and possession of child pornography.

Vatican magistrates also charged him with causing serious psychological distress and harm to adolescent victims of sexual abuse and for offending religious and Christian morals with his repeated use of online pornography abroad and on Vatican City State property.

Wesolowski was dismissed from the clerical state in June 2014 after an investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.