Italy bishop testifies in priest sex abuse case

Prosecutor Francesco Scavo looks on during a hearing in the trial of Rev. Ruggero Conti, in a Rome courtroom, Thursday, May 20, 2010. Rev. Ruggero Conti is accused of sexual violence and prostitution concerning seven young boys who frequented his parish in a working class neighborhood of Rome. The case is being closely watched because Conti served as an adviser to Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno and worked in the Vatican's backyard

ROMEā€”An Italian bishop testified Thursday in the trial of a priest accused of molesting boys that he heard rumors of abuse two years before the priest was arrested but didn’t find them credible enough to warrant removing him or informing the Vatican.

Monsignor Gino Reali’s testimony marked the first time an Italian bishop has been called to take the stand in a trial of an Italian priest accused of abusing youngsters, said attorney Nino Marazzita, who is representing two of the seven alleged victims in the civil portion of the case.

The trial of the Rev. Ruggero Conti, taking place in the shadow of the Vatican, comes as the clerical abuse scandal swirls around the Holy See and exposes the depth of the abuse problem in Italy, which has long treated the subject as so taboo it was rarely even discussed.

Recently, the head of the Italian bishops’ conference issued a mea culpa on the part of the Italian church to all victims and their families for the failure of “those who should have intervened in a timely manner.”

“Proven cases of mismanagement, underestimation of the facts, if not outright cover-up, will have to be rigorously prosecuted within and outside the Church and, as has already happened in some cases, will have to result in the removal and dismissal of the people involved,” Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco told Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper last month.

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