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France

Vatican lifts envoy's immunity over sex assault claims

media The Vatican's envoy to Paris, Luigi Ventura, during a religious ceremony in 2010. Fuente: AFP.

The Vatican, international headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has lifted the diplomatic immunity of its Paris envoy who is under investigation for alleged sexual assault, the French foreign ministry said on Monday.

Luigi Ventura, 74, faces four complaints of sexual abuse -- including an allegation that he molested a junior official at the Paris town hall. French prosecutors in March asked the Vatican to lift his immunity.

A spokesman said the foreign ministry "received confirmation from the Holy See that it had waived Ventura's immunity" in a letter that arrived late last week.

In February, French prosecutors revealed they were investigating the Italian-born archbishop over an alleged incident at the town hall during a New Year's address by Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

During the ceremony, a city employee was allegedly groped repeatedly, with the town hall filing a complaint on 24 January. An investigation was opened the next day.

Two other people have since come forward and related incidents involving "similar gestures, hands on buttocks or thighs", which allegedly took place last year.

There was also a complaint filed in Ottawa by a man who made similar allegations about an incident in 2008 while Ventura was serving in Canada.

Paris prosecutors said they had requested on 7 March that the Vatican lift the archbishop's immunity "in the context of the inquiry involving him in the matter of sexual assault".

In response, the Holy See sent back a letter dated 2 July in which it confirmed waiving Ventura's immunity from prosecution.

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