Created: 4/1/2010 12:22:17 PM Updated: 4/1/2010 12:24:54 PM
Vatican City Vatican — Pope Benedict, accused of being ultimately responsible for the alleged cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests, cannot be called to testify at any trial because he enjoys immunity as a foreign head of state, journalists and Vatican specialists said on Thursday.
Lawyers representing victims of sexual abuse by priests in several cases in the United States have said they would want the pope to testify in an attempt to try to prove the Vatican was negligent.
But the pope is protected by diplomatic immunity because more than 170 countries, including the United States, have diplomatic relations with the Vatican. They recognise it as a sovereign state and the pope as its sovereign head.
Long-time Vatican observer Marco Politi said that he thought getting the pope to testify was out of the question. “It would be like in some part of the world, in India somebody suing the president of the United States and expecting that he comes to the court of India, or of China or Italy,” he said.
Though he said the pope would not be called to testify, Politi argued for the Vatican to come clean about the past. “Certainly the Vatican has to open its archives in order to explain clearly what happened in the 1960’s in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s because many times there was a cover-up,” he added.
Reuters Vatican Correspondent Philip Pullella said that the pope could not be compared to a chief-executive officer of a multi-national co-operation.
“It’s not like if there’s a defect in a car, then the chief-executive officer can be held ultimately responsible and negligent. He’s a head of state, so calling the pope to testify in a U.S. court would be like an Italian lawyer asking the Queen of England to come and testify in a trial here in Italy,” he said. “It’s just not going to happen.”
The pope celebrated the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday but did not refer in his sermon to the crisis of confidence sweeping the Church as almost daily revelations surface of sexual abuse of children in the past and allegations of a cover-up.