Rome priest on trial for abuse defends Pope

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 09:49

Rome: A politically connected priest on trial
for allegedly sexually molesting young boys proclaimed his
innocence and denounced what he said was "mud" being thrown on
the Pope concerning the clerical abuse scandal.

The Rev Ruggero Conti made a spontaneous declaration
during a court hearing in Rome. He is accused of sexual
violence and prostitution concerning seven young boys who
frequented his parish in a working class neighbourhood of
Rome.

In police interrogations, the boys -- some as young as 13
at the time of the alleged abuse -- said Conti would masturbate
them and force them to perform oral sex on him in his home
where he frequently invited them to eat dinner and watch
movies.

The case is being closely watched because Conti served as
an adviser to Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno and worked in the
Vatican`s backyard.

In his declaration yesterday, Conti proclaimed his
innocence and linked his case to the criticism the Pope has
been weathering in recent weeks as the clerical abuse scandal
swirls around the Vatican.

"Here I am, Mr President, and I am not a monster, I am
innocent, I say it with clean conscience, humbly," Conti said.

"I am a priest, the infamies of which I am accused
accumulate other hatred, not only on myself, but it (the
hatred) bounces off immediately like a stone on the water to
hit the Church and hurt the Holy Father," Conti said,
denouncing the "mud" that has been thrown at the pontiff.

Bureau Report



First Published: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - 09:49

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