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Vatican again denies knowing Argentine bishop had taken naked selfies

Pope Francis greets Bishop Zanchetta in June 2015 (Diocese of OrĂ¡n)

The Vatican 'resolutely' restated that it had no knowledge Bishop Zanchetta faced abuse allegations before Pope Francis appointed him to a senior position

The Vatican has again denied having prior knowledge of allegations against Argentine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, including claims that he had abused adult seminarians and taken naked photographs of himself, before Pope Francis appointed him to a senior Vatican office in December 2017.

Spokesman Alessandro Gisotti “resolutely” repeated a previous Vatican statement saying it had seen no sexual abuse claims at the time Pope Francis appointed the bishop to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA). Gisotti said the claims only emerged at the end of 2018.

Gisotti also said he wanted to correct “some misleading reconstructions.”

On Sunday, Association Press published a testimony from Fr Juan Jose Manzano, Zanchetta’s former vicar general, who said he and others had reported concerns about Zanchetta’s behaviour to the apostolic nuncio for Argentina in 2015 and in 2017. Each time, Pope Francis summoned Zanchetta to a meeting in Rome, Manzano said. Soon after the second meeting, Zanchetta announced his resignation as Bishop of Orán, citing health problems.

“In 2015, we just sent a ‘digital support’ with selfie photos of the previous bishop in obscene or out of place behavior that seemed inappropriate and dangerous,” Manzano told AP. The 2015 claims against Zanchetta were not issued as an official canonical complaint, he added.

In May or June of 2017, Manzano told the AP, he and the rector of the seminary made a second complaint against Zanchetta to the apostolic nuncio in Buenos Aires, who forwarded it along to the Vatican.

In the Vatican’s original statement on January 4, they said the current Bishop of Orán is in the process of collecting testimonies regarding the allegations against Zanchetta. “If the elements needed to proceed are confirmed, the case will be referred to the special commission for bishops,” the statement said.

Zanchetta has been placed on leave from his APSA position while the investigation is ongoing.