Pope Francis Popularity Hits Snag, Blasted Over Recall of Vatican Envoy to Dominican Republic

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | September 6, 2013 1:13 PM EST

In what could be a first for his 6-month tenure as chief spiritual leader of the 1.2-billion strong Roman Catholic church, the popularity of Pope Francis has hit a snag following the Vatican's recall of its envoy to the Dominican Republic amid child abuse allegations.

The US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), in a statement, blasted the half-year reigning pope for covering up the pedophile scandal in Dominican Republic, asserting further that he was in no way different from his immediate predecessor, Benedict XVI, and those way before him.

"Like all of his predecessors, Pope Francis is acting belatedly, secretively and recklessly. Catholic officials act only when forced to do so by media pressure," the group said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Vatican confirmed that Monsignor Josef Wesolowski was indeed sacked from his job. But what irked SNAP and other victims groups was that the Vatican never made the matter public, only when it happened to be leaked. Monsignor Wesolowski had been removed from his post as the papal nuncio in Santo Domingo since Aug 21.

Moreover, the Vatican did not disclose why he had been removed from his post, although it said an investigation had started relative to his abrupt job termination. Yet, on what bases of allegations, these were never made public.

"When they do act, they act secretively - in this case, by not disclosing the allegations, the suspension or the reason for the suspension," SNAP said.

Reports released by local Dominican Republic news outlets said authorities were now investigating allegations of child sex abuse hurled against Monsignor Wesolowski.

"It is a situation that really shames and hurts the conscience of all Catholics," Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, rector of a Catholic university and spokesman for the church in the Dominican Republic, was quoted by CNN as telling reporters. "Really when there are these kinds of situations, justice must be done."

Monsignor Wesolowski, a 65-year-old Pole who has been the papal envoy in Santo Domingo for five years, has been alleged to have had "slept" with several altar boys in a single room at his beach house.

Allegations that he had sex for money in the "Zona colonial," the historic center of Santo Domingo, with underage boys apart from altar boys have likewise been thrown against Monsignor Wesolowski.

"It was a surprise for me. It is an unprecedented case," Monsignor Nunez said. "An ambassador of the Holy See, that it reaches that level."

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