SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Authorities in the Dominican Republic will look into allegations of child sex abuse against the papal envoy to the Caribbean country following his abrupt removal from his post by the Vatican, the attorney general said Wednesday.
Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito was careful to note that his office is aware only of rumors about the papal nuncio, Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, and has not received any accusations.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that Wesolowski had been removed from his post and that the church was conducting an investigation of him. He declined to provide any details about the accusations against the Polish-born prelate.
A nuncio is the pope's ambassador to a country and such an abrupt removal is rare.
Dominguez told reporters at a news conference that the investigation was in its initial stages and largely in response to media reports of allegations of sexual misconduct by Wesolowski as well as a friend and fellow priest. He said that he had designated a senior official to lead the investigation and coordinate with the Vatican.
"We will not allow anyone to use the Catholic Church or other religious institutions as a shield to commit illegal acts, especially against children," he said.
Wesolowski's sudden departure from the Dominican Republic in recent days has been the cause of feverish speculation in local media. Dominican television network NCDN, citing a statement from the director of a community group, reported that Wesolowski had slept in the same room as several altar boys at his beach house.
Shortly before his removal, several residents of the mountain town of Juncalito made allegations of sexual abuse against the Rev. Alberto Gil Wojciech, also a Polish priest and a friend of Wesolowski. The community leader, Pedro Espinal, told reporters that Wojciech took altar boys to the home of Wesolowski.
Wojciech was in Poland on vacation when the allegations surfaced and has not returned to the Dominican Republic.