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Józef Wesołowski

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Józef Wesołowski
Former Titular Archbishop of Slebte
ChurchCatholic Church
In office3 November 1999–27 June 2014
Ordination21 May 1972
by Karol Wojtyła
Consecration6 January 2000
by Pope John Paul II
Personal details
Born(1948-07-15)15 July 1948
Died27 August 2015(2015-08-27) (aged 67)
Vatican City, Vatican City State
Previous post(s)
  • Apostolic Nuncio to Bolivia (1999–2002)
  • Apostolic Nuncio to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan (2002–2008)
  • Apostolic Nuncio to Dominican Republic (2008–2013)

Józef Wesołowski (15 July 1948 – 27 August 2015) was a Polish prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He was an archbishop from 2000 until being laicized by the Holy See in 2014. He was the Apostolic Nuncio to the Dominican Republic from January 2008 until he was recalled in August 2013. Authorities in the Dominican Republic were investigating allegations of child abuse against him. In June 2015, the Vatican announced he would stand trial on charges of possessing child pornography, for which he faced a possible prison term. He died on 27 August 2015 of a heart attack before going to trial.


Wesołowski was born in Nowy Targ, now a part of Lesser Poland Voivodeship, on 15 July 1948. He was ordained a Catholic priest in Kraków on 21 May 1972 by Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope John Paul II. He earned a degree in canon law.[1] To prepare for a career as a diplomat, he studied at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy beginning in 1976.[2] He joined the diplomatic service of the Holy See on 25 March 1980. His early assignments took him to Southern Africa, Costa Rica, Japan, Switzerland, India and Denmark.[1]

Pope John Paul II appointed him a titular archbishop and apostolic nuncio to Bolivia on 3 November 1999 and consecrated him a bishop on 6 January 2000. In 2002, Pope John Paul appointed him nuncio to four Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan and Tajikistan on 16 February,[1] Kyrgyzstan on 6 July,[3] and Uzbekistan on 6 November.[4] On 24 January 2008, Pope Benedict XVI named him Apostolic Nuncio to the Dominican Republic and Apostolic Delegate to Puerto Rico.[5]


On 21 August 2013, Wesołowski was dismissed by Pope Francis and left the Dominican Republic immediately. Initial news reports from Italy attributed the departure of Wesołowski to a three-year dispute between the latter and Roberto González Nieves, Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico.[6] Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo, told the press on 27 August that Wesołowski was "a great friend and a great advocate of peace". He said that the dispute between Wesołowski and González arose from the latter's support for Puerto Rican independence.[7]

On 2 September 2013, Dominican investigative journalist Nuria Piera reported that Wesołowski had been dismissed because he was involved in the sexual abuse of minors.[8] By then it was believed that Wesołowski had left the Dominican Republic.[9] The next day, Agripino Núñez Collado, Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University Mother and Teacher, said that Wesołowski had been recalled to the Vatican because of child abuse allegations.[10][11] A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Dominican Republic then disavowed Núñez Collado's statement and called Wesołowski's summons to Rome "routine". He called the allegations of child abuse by Wesołowski "rumors" and added that "there is no evidence against Wesołowski".[10][12]

On 4 September 2013, Dominican Republic authorities launched an investigation into Wesołowski's conduct.[11] The Vatican confirmed that Vatican officials were conducting their own investigation into Wesołowski and that he had been recalled. A Vatican spokesperson denied that child abuse itself was the basis for the recall,[11] but said the allegations were serious enough to suspend Wesołowski during the investigation.[13] Local church leaders later denied that Wesołowski was being investigated for child abuse and described his recall as an administrative procedure.[13]

A priest accused along with Wesołowski, Father Wojciech Gil, had returned home to Poland, and Dominican investigators provided their Polish counterparts with extensive documentation of criminal allegations against him in September, since Poland and the Dominican Republic have no extradition treaty.[14] Gil had been suspended from his duties at the nunciature in May 2013 while on vacation in his native Poland.[15] He has said the charges against him were the work of drug gangsters opposed to his educational work.[16] Polish officials arrested Gil on 17 February 2014.[17][a]

In January 2014 there were reports that the Vatican had refused to extradite Wesołowski to his native Poland,[21] based on the Vatican's reply to an inquiry from the District Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw that said: "Archbishop Wesołowski is a citizen of the Vatican, and Vatican law does not allow for his extradition."[22] According to Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi, no extradition request had been made and the Vatican, Poland, and the Dominican Republic were cooperating with one another. He said that Wesołowski is subject to a canonical investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and possible outcomes could include his laicization. He also said that criminal charges to be tried in a Vatican court were a possibility.[23]

Vatican proceedings[edit]

On 27 June 2014, the Vatican Press Office announced that the first stage of the canonical trial of Wesołowski had ended with his laicisation.[24] A laicized cleric is forbidden to exercise ministerial functions under nearly all circumstances. In general, any exercise of his power to administer the Sacraments is considered valid but illicit, except in extraordinary circumstances.[25]

On the following 23 September, the Vatican held an opening hearing in criminal proceedings against Wesołowski. Because of his health, he remained under house arrest for the duration of the trial rather than under more restrictive detention.[26] According to Lombardi, Wesołowski no longer enjoyed diplomatic immunity and was subject to any judicial procedures that may have been brought against him.[27] According to a report prepared by investigators for the prosecutors, thousands of sexually explicit photographs and videos were found on computers he used. They used technical data they recovered to reconstruct Wesołowski's contacts in the course of his diplomatic career.[28]

Gian Piero Milano, the Vatican's Promoter of Justice, and Francisco Domínguez Brito, the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic, discussed Wesołowski's case before Pope Francis met with Dominguez Brito on December 3, who told the Pope he and Milano had "looked into the procedures, legal competencies and steps to follow, in line with Vatican criminal procedures". According to the Pope's spokesman, Francis "underlined that the institutions of both judicial systems must act with complete freedom and within the law".[29]

Wesołowski was indicted in June 2015 by a Vatican prosecutor for possessing child pornography, with a trial date set for 11 July.[30] The trial was postponed on 11 July because of an "unexpected illness" which put Wesołowski into intensive care.[31]


Wesołowski was found dead in his residence in the Vatican on 27 August 2015. A Vatican statement said that he likely died of natural causes.[32] An initial autopsy by a team of doctors identified the cause of death as a heart attack,[33] and the final autopsy confirmed the death was due to natural causes.[34] His funeral Mass on 31 August used the form for members of the laity. It was celebrated by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner.[35]

The Vatican was inconsistent in its references to Wesołowski. The announcement of his death omitted his clerical title and referred to him as "former apostolic Nuncio", while the final autopsy used the title "Monsignor".[34]


  1. ^ At trial on 20 March 2015, Gil offered to serve seven years in prison, using a Polish court procedure that allows a defendant to propose a punishment after pleading guilty.[18] He faced confinement for as long as 15 years on multiple charges of sexual molestation of boys younger than 15.[19] On 25 March, Gil was sentenced to seven years in jail and ordered to pay his victims $42,000 in compensation.[20]


  1. ^ a b c "Rinunce e Nomine, 16.02.2002" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 16 February 2002. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Pontificia Accademia Ecclesiastica, Ex-alunni 1950 – 1999" (in Italian). Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  3. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 06.07.2002" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 6 July 2002. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 06.11.2002" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 6 November 2002. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 24.01.2008" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 24 January 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Santa Sede destituye a nuncio Wesolowski: pugna de tres años con el arzobispo de Puerto Rico provocó su salida" (in Spanish). Santo Domingo: Listín Diario. 27 August 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  7. ^ Ramón Urbáez (28 August 2013). "Cardenal destaca gestión de nuncio" (in Spanish). Santo Domingo: Listín Diario. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  8. ^ "Nuria denuncia destituido nuncio Wesolowski bebía y prostituía niños". Acento (in Spanish). 4 September 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  9. ^ Lopez, Ezequiel Abiu; Winfield, Nicole (September 4, 2013). "Archbishop Josef Wesolowski Investigated For Child Abuse; Vatican Envoy To Dominican Republic Abruptly Recalled". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  10. ^ a b Aybar Rivas, Linabel (5 September 2013). "Arzobispado dice destitución de nuncio es rutinaria; desautoriza a Agripino Núñez" (in Spanish). Acento.com.do. Archived from the original on 12 July 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Diulka Perez (4 September 2013). "Pope pulls ambassador to Dominican Republic amid abuse allegations". CNN. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  12. ^ Primera, Maye (5 September 2013). "La Iglesia dominicana asegura que no hay pruebas contra el exnuncio". El País (in Spanish). Miami. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  13. ^ a b Ezequiel Abiu Lopez (5 September 2013). "Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, Recalled Vatican Envoy, Not Accused Of Sex Abuse Vatican Insists". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  14. ^ "Poland gets documents on priests in Dominican Rep. child abuse case". Dominican Today. November 6, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  15. ^ Withnall, Adam (September 5, 2013). "Missing Vatican ambassador recalled following child abuse accusations in Dominican Republic". The Independent. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  16. ^ "Dominicans seek Polish priest Wojciech Gil on child sex rap". The Standard (Hong Kong). 1 November 2013. Archived from the original on 21 February 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  17. ^ "Poland arrests suspected paedophile priest". Times of India. 17 February 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  18. ^ "Ksiądz Wojciech G. Winny pedofilii i skazany. Prokuratura przyjęła propozycję kary". 25 March 2015.
  19. ^ Berendt, Joanna (March 20, 2015). "Poland: Priest's Abuse Trial Opens". New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
  20. ^ Luxmoore, Jonathan (26 March 2015). "Laicized Polish priest gets seven years in jail for child sexual abuse". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  21. ^ "Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski's Extradition Declined: Former Papal Nuncio Accused Of Sex Abuse Remains In Vatican". Huffington Post. January 10, 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  22. ^ "Vatican refuses to extradite Polish archbishop accused of child sex abuse". Polskie Radio. 10 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  23. ^ Allen Jr., John L. (January 13, 2014). "Four new echoes in 'Francis revolution'". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  24. ^ Pentin, Edward (27 June 2014). "Vatican Laicizes Archbishop Josef Wesolowski for Sex Abuse of Minors". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 12 February 2023.
  25. ^ Code of Canon Law (1983), Canons 290-293, The Holy See.
  26. ^ "Vatican opens a criminal trial against former Dominican Republic ambassador". Crux. Associated Press. 23 September 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  27. ^ "Lombardi: Former Nuncio Wesolowski does not have diplomatic immunity". Vatican Radio. 28 September 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  28. ^ Sarzanini, Fiorenza (26 September 2014). "Child Porn Found Former Nuncio's Computer". Corriere Della Sera. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  29. ^ Scaramuzzi, Iacopo (3 December 2014). "Francis meets Dominican Republic's top prosecutor to cast light on the Wesolowski case". Vatican Insider. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  30. ^ "Vatican Prosecutor Indicts Defrocked Priest On Pedophilia Charges". NPR News. 15 June 2015.
  31. ^ Stephanie Kirchgaessner (11 July 2015). "First Vatican child abuse trial delayed as accused taken to hospital". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  32. ^ "Vatican ex-envoy Wesolowski dies ahead of abuse trial". BBC News. 28 August 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  33. ^ D'Emilio, Frances (August 29, 2015). "Autopsy: Ex-papal-envoy on trial for sex abuse of minors died of heart attack at Vatican". U.S. News & World Report. Associated Press. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  34. ^ a b Scaramuzzi, Iacopo (18 December 2015). "Wesolowski autopsy rules out death resulting from unnatural causes". Vatican Insider. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  35. ^ "Wesolowsi funeral celebrated according to the rite for the laity". Vatican Insider. 31 August 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Titular Bishop of Slebte
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Apostolic Nuncio to Bolivia
Succeeded by
Preceded by Apostolic Nuncio to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
Succeeded by
Apostolic Nuncio to Uzbekistan
Succeeded by
Preceded by Apostolic Nuncio to the Dominican Republic
Succeeded by