Pope Francis quietly recalled the Vatican's envoy to the Dominican Republic last month, and now a criminal investigation has been opened into allegations that he paid for sex with young boys.
Dominican Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito told reporters Wednesday that prosecutors had officially opened the investigation into child abuse and pedophilia allegations against Jozef Wesolowski.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi later confirmed that Rome is conducting an investigation into allegations of child sex abuse against Wesolowski, but did not go into detail.
Domincan press, however, reported that Wesolowski paid for sex with underage boys in the “Zona colonial”, the historic district of Santo Domingo.
Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, rector of a Catholic university and spokesman for the church in the country, expressed surprise at the allegations against such a high official.
"It was a surprise for me. It is an unprecedented case," Nunez said. "An ambassador of the Holy See, that it reaches that level."
The apostolic nuncio, or official representative of the Vatican, carries an international diplomat status, though he can still be prosecuted in the Dominican Republic under national laws.
Wesolowski, 65, was ordained in Poland in 1972 by Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II. He had been papal envoy to Dominican Republic for the last five years.
Following confirmation of the accusations against Wesolowski, victims groups blasted the Vatican for their secretive process for investigation and removal.
Pope Francis has vowed to crack down on sex abuse in the Catholic Church and uphold the zero-tolerance policy put in place by his predecessor. In July, Francis updated Vatican legislation to criminalize crimes against minors.
Though the new criminal penalties only apply within the Vatican and to its few thousand employees abroad, crimes committed in other countries are still subject to those countries' laws.