Vatican pushes back about work conditions at UN mission

March 16, 2019 - 10:26 am

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is pushing back against reports about work conditions at its U.N. mission in New York under its former ambassador, in the latest scandal implicating the Holy See's diplomatic corps.

The Vatican's U.N. mission said the visa status of its diplomatic, technical and service staff were in full compliance with U.S. regulations from 2010-2014, and that its service staff were paid more than New York minimum wage.

The statement was responding to a March 11 report in the Crux online Catholic site about complaints from former staff about work conditions during the 2010-2014 tenure of Archbishop Francis Chullikatt. On Saturday, Catholic News Agency also reported allegations of inappropriate behavior by Chullikatt, currently the Vatican's ambassador in Central Asia.

Asked Saturday for comment, the Vatican press office referred requests for comment to the mission statement, dated March 11.

Both stories cited unnamed former staff as well as Terrence McKeegan, a legal advisor to the mission, who said he flagged issues of "serious moral and financial corruption" to the Vatican in 2013.

The mission statement addressed only the Crux report. The mission said Saturday it didn't have an immediate comment on the CNA report alleging inappropriate behavior.

The reports are the latest to implicate members of the Vatican's diplomatic corps, who like all diplomats enjoy immunity while serving overseas. In 2017, Francis moved to shore up oversight over the corps by creating a new diplomatic section in the secretariat of state to increase the Vatican's role in selecting and training its envoys.

Recently, French prosecutors placed the Vatican's French ambassador under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct. Prior to that, an adviser to the Vatican's embassy in Washington D.C., was convicted by a Vatican court of possession and distribution of child pornography.

That same tribunal planned to prosecute the Holy See's ambassador to the Dominican Republic for sexually abusing minors, but he died before the trial got underway.

Independent of those investigations, the Holy See's former ambassador to the U.S. sparked a crisis in Pope Francis' papacy last year by accusing him and a long list of Vatican officials before him of covering up for ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The American cleric was recently defrocked by Francis for sexually abusing minors and adults.

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