The Italian Catholic Church was rocked by the arrest of Genoa-based priest Don Riccardo Seppia (50).

Priest held in Genoa on abuse and drug charges - Comment on 2011 May 16 (3)

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2011 May 16 (3)
Parishioners in Don Seppia’s Spirito Santo parish in the Genoa suburb of Sestri Ponente were surprised on Saturday when the Archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, celebrated Mass in their church. Read more:

On the very weekend that the Vatican was due to release a new clerical sex abuse guidelines document, the Italian Catholic Church was rocked by the arrest of Genoa-based priest Don Riccardo Seppia (50), charged with “immoral behaviour with a minor and with the use of stupefying substances”, according to a Genoa curia communiqué.

Parishioners in Don Seppia’s Spirito Santo parish in the Genoa suburb of Sestri Ponente were surprised on Saturday when the Archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, celebrated Mass in their church. Addressing the issue of the arrest some hours earlier of parish priest Don Seppia, Cardinal Bagnasco said he wanted to express solidarity “with all those who may have been affected or offended by the unworthy, unjustifiable and illegal behaviour” of the priest.

Media reports suggest the arrest came about when Don Riccardo’s phone appeared within the context of a Milan-based investigation into a drug trafficking operation. It appears Don Riccardo may have been a regular client of one of the pushers under surveillance. Investigators opted to arrest the priest on Saturday when, based on surveillance of his text messages, they became convinced he intended to stage a sexual encounter with some 15-year-old boys.

Inevitably, Don Riccardo’s arrest prompted contrasting responses in his diocese, with some of his parishioners defending him while others pointed out that in his 15 years in the parish he had earned himself the nickname “The Priest Of The Night”, because of his unorthodox night-time social life.

Cardinal Bagnasco, who is also the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, told the Santo Spirito faithful on Saturday that he had total faith in the justice system, adding that he shared their “sense of shame and total disapproval if these grave accusations prove founded”.

Ironically, the Vatican is this morning due to release a letter sent to bishops worldwide, offering guidance on how to combat child sex abuse within the Catholic Church.

 

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