CNA Staff, Nov 9, 2020 / 06:05 pm (CNA).- The former apostolic nuncio to France will go on trial Nov. 10 in Paris after allegations he committed sexual assault by inappropriately touching five men since 2018.

Archbishop Luigi Ventura, who denies the claims, submitted his resignation as apostolic nuncio to France in December 2019 upon reaching the age of 75, and Pope Francis accepted the resignation less than 10 days later. The Vatican had revoked Ventura’s diplomatic immunity in July 2019, paving the way for a trial in French courts.

“Bishop Ventura impatiently awaits this trial so that he can explain himself, that the light can be shed and his innocence recognized,” Ventura’s lawyer, Solange Doumic, told Agence France Presse.

Doumic said that the former nuncio “himself asked for the lifting of diplomatic immunity so as to be able to explain himself to the courts.”

However, lawyers representing the civil complainants argue that lifting immunity was a “fight” for the plaintiffs. In February 2019 three of the plaintiffs challenged the French head of state over the issue.

“Faced with Mr. Ventura’s denials, my client hopes that the court will hear his word and recognize him in his victim status,” Elise Arfi, the lawyer for Mathieu de La Souchère, said.

Afri’s client was the first to make allegations publicly, Agence France Presse reports.

Sexual assault can be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 75,000 euros, about $88,600.

Ventura has been living in Rome since September last year, according to French news agency I. Media.

The first public accusation came in early 2019, after he was accused of inappropriately touching a municipal employee at a Jan. 17, 2019, reception for the New Year address of Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. The accusation was then investigated by Parisian authorities for several months.

Since the alleged victim came forward, four other men have reported touching incidents during public events in France between January 2018 and February 2019.

After the initial allegation was made against Ventura, he also faced another accusation of sexual misconduct against an adult male relating to his time in Canada in 2008. He has denied the allegations.

Ventura was apostolic nuncio to Canada from 2001 to 2009.

Ventura was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Brescia, in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, in 1969. He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1978 and was stationed in Brazil, Bolivia, and the UK. From 1984 to 1995 he was appointed to serve at the Secretariat of State in the Section for Relations with States.

After his episcopal consecration in 1995, Ventura served as nuncio to Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chile, and Canada. He was appointed apostolic nuncio to France in September 2009.

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