Bishop Zanchetta Returns to Work at the Vatican Amid Abuse Trial in Argentina

The accused bishop was suspended from his role as an assessor at APSA amid a canonical investigation, announced in January 2019.

Pope Francis greets Bishop Zanchetta in 2019.
Pope Francis greets Bishop Zanchetta in 2019. (photo: Vatican Media.)

VATICAN CITY — Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta has returned to work at the Vatican amid an ongoing trial in Argentina, where he has been charged with sexual and financial misconduct.

Holy See Press Office director Matteo Bruni told CNA June 15 that Bishop Zanchetta had resumed his work at the Vatican while “remaining available to the Argentine judicial authorities.”

Bruni said that BishopZanchetta’s work at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) — the Vatican’s central reserve bank and sovereign asset management body — “does not interfere in any way with the investigations.”

Bishop Zanchetta, the former bishop of Orán, Argentina, has been accused of “aggravated continuous sexual abuse” of two adult-aged seminarians, as well as fraud and mismanagement of funds. He denies the charges. 

The accused bishop was suspended from his role as an assessor at APSA amid a canonical investigation, announced in January 2019. Bishop Zanchetta’s canon lawyer confirmed in November 2019 that the prelate was still living in Casa Santa Marta, where he had resided for two years, in Vatican City.

APSA oversees real estate holdings and other sovereign assets. The financial operations APSA carries out are recorded in the database of the Vatican’s Data Processing Center, which includes the records of investments and financial transactions going back 50 years.

Bishop Zanchetta was one of Pope Francis’ first episcopal appointments in Argentina, where he led the Diocese of Orán from his appointment in July 2013 to 2017.

After being allowed to resign for “health reasons” in 2017,  Bishop Zanchetta was appointed by Pope Francis to the specially created position of assessor at APSA.

Argentinian media have since reported that the bishop was first accused of sexually inappropriate behavior as early as 2015. 

According to a report from El Tribuno, one of Bishop Zanchetta’s secretaries alerted authorities after accidentally finding sexually explicit images sent and received on the bishop’s cell phone in 2015. The complaint says that some of the images depict “young people” having sex, in addition to lewd images of Bishop Zanchetta himself.

Pope Francis summoned Bishop Zanchetta to Rome for five days in October 2015. The bishop claimed his phone and computer had been hacked, and that the accusations were motivated by ill feeling towards the Pope, who took no further action. 

The Vatican has repeatedly denied having prior knowledge of sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Zanchetta before his December 2017 appointment to a Vatican office.

Father Juan José Manzano, the former vicar general of the Diocese of Orán, has claimed publicly that he first reported Bishop Zanchetta in 2015, after the pornographic images were found on his phone. Father Manzano said he also reported him again in 2017.

After Bishop Zanchetta was charged with assaulting two seminarians in June 2019, Orán’s Economic Crime Unit raided offices in the chancery November 2019. The raid was carried out to investigate Bishop Zanchetta's alleged fraud against the state, according to El Oranense.

In addition to accusations of mismanaging church funds donated by the faithful in the diocese, public records show that Bishop Zanchetta received more than 1 million Argentinian pesos from Salta Province to restore a rectory and for lectures at the seminary which never occurred.

In a May 2019 interview, Pope Francis said that a preliminary investigation against Bishop Zanchetta had concluded and would proceed to a trial, conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

The Pope said, “They will make a trial, they will issue a sentence and I will promulgate it."

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