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Zanchetta formally charged with abusing seminarians

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

The bishop at the heart of the 'naked selfies' scandal faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted

A bishop close to Pope Francis has been formally charged with sexually assaulting two seminarians.

Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta has been barred from leaving Argentina and must undergo a psychological evaluation later this week, according to InfoCatólica. He faces between three and ten years in prison if convicted.

Zanchetta, who was one of Pope Francis’s first appointments in his home country, was first accused of “strange behaviour” in 2015 when pornographic pictures, including naked selfies, were found on his phone.

The Vatican initially claimed it only knew of complaints against Zanchetta in 2018, but a former vicar general of the bishop’s diocese said he first reported Zanchetta in 2015.

“It was an alarm that we made to the Holy See via some friendly bishops. The nunciature didn’t intervene directly, but the Holy Father summoned Zanchetta and he justified himself saying that his cellphone had been hacked, and that there were people who were out to damage the image of the Pope.”

Pope Francis allowed Zanchetta to resign as Bishop of Orán in August 2017. The Vatican Press Office gave no reason for Zanchetta’s resignation at the time, but the bishop cited ill health. In December that year, Pope Francis appointed him to as Assessor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, a position specially created for him.

In a recent interview, Pope Francis confirmed there is also a canonical investigation of Zanchetta. “Before I asked for his resignation, there was an accusation, and I immediately made him come over with the person who accused him and explain it,” the Pope said.

“Evidently he had, some say, despotic treatment of others – he was bossy,” the Pope added. “Certainly, the clergy didn’t feel well treated by him.”

Pope Francis said he opened an investigation into Zanchetta once he had found a replacement for him as Bishop of Orán, and that he has now received the results of that investigation.

“I decided that it’s necessary to have a trial. So, I gave it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”