Catholic Priest Sentenced in Italy for Child Sex Abuse
    2012-05-04 05:42:05     Xinhua       Web Editor: dingxiaoxiao

An Italian priest was sentenced in the northern city of Genoa on Thursday to nine and a half years in prison for child sex abuse and attempting to recruit minors into prostitution.

Father Riccardo Seppia from the nearby town of Sastri Ponente was also ordered to pay a fine of 28,000 euros (36,821 U.S. dollars) for his crimes that have rocked the Catholic Church in Italy.

The prosecution had requested a longer sentence of almost 12 years.

Seppia has been in jail since he was arrested in May last year on paedophilia charges and alleged cocaine use when investigators revealed recordings of tapped phone calls in which Seppia told a drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with minors.

Before being sentenced on Thursday, Seppia, a parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, asked for forgiveness in a prepared statement, saying that what he had done was "wrong."

"I ask forgiveness for my moral behavior because I made mistakes," the statement said. "I made a mistake conducting myself in that way."

The Catholic Church in Savona recently began offering priests a course designed to stop paedophilia after Seppia's child abuse sex scandal left the community shocked and shaken.

Seppia's case was particularly damaging as Genoa Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is also head of the Italian Bishops Conference, had been working with Pope Benedict XVI to establish tough new international guidelines on how bishops should handle clerical sex abuse.

Referring to tapped telephone conversations, investigators alleged that Seppia asked for sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys.

"I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger," he allegedly said. "Fourteen-year-olds are alright. Look for needy boys who have family problems."

The bishop for Savona-Noli, Monsignor Vittorio Lupi, recently sent a letter to priests, teachers and others involved in church activities or associations to promote the new course to improve awareness and stop clerical sexual abuse.

The Catholic Church has suffered from the widespread impact of sex abuse scandals around the world in countries including the United States, Ireland, Belgium, Germany and Austria and has been accused of failing to take enough action to tackle the problem or bring those responsible to justice.

Two investigations led by prosecutor Giovanni Battista Ferro are currently being conducted into pedophilia in Catholic dioceses in Savona and surrounding areas.

They include a number of sexual abuse claims that allegedly took place between the early 1990s and 2000.

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