The Vatican announced Tuesday that Pope Francis has decided to move a pre-seminary at the center of an abuse and cover-up trial out of Vatican City.
The Holy See press office said May 25 that the pope had told Fr. Angelo Magistrelli, rector of the St. Pius X Pre-seminary, during a recent audience that the institution would move to a new location in September.
The pre-seminary is a residence for about a dozen boys aged 12 to 18 who serve at papal Masses and other liturgies in St. Peter’s Basilica and are considering the priesthood.
The press office said: “His Holiness did not fail, on this occasion, to express his deep gratitude to Fr. Magistrelli for the work done in these 75 years since the foundation of the institution, recognizing that it retains its educational validity and asking that it may continue the appreciated liturgical service performed by the young students in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.”
“This is, therefore, a new stage in the life and activity of the St. Pius X Pre-seminary, which will undoubtedly offer it new opportunities for growth and development, especially in the area of promoting vocations to the sacred ministry.”
The press office said that relocating the pre-seminary had been considered “for some time” and that the move would enable students to be closer “to the places where they carry out their studies and practice their recreational activities.”
The pre-seminary is run by a religious group, the Opera Don Folci, which is overseen by the Diocese of Como in northern Italy.
Since 2017, the institution has been overshadowed by claims of abuse and cover-up.
The Vatican announced in September 2019 that the Vatican City State’s Promoter of Justice had requested the indictment of two Italian priests: Fr. Gabriele Martinelli and Fr. Enrico Radice.
Martinelli was accused of molesting his roommate at the pre-seminary over a five-year period, from 2007 to 2012. Charges were brought against Radice, the pre-seminary rector’s at the time of the alleged abuse, for alleged “aiding and abetting.”
Martinelli has insisted that he is innocent, calling the accusations against him “unfounded” and intended to “strike” at the pre-seminary.
Radice has said that he was never told about abuse by Martinelli by anyone, accusing the alleged victim and another alleged witness of making up the story for “economic interests.”
The first hearing took place on Oct. 14, 2020. The next hearing is scheduled for June 7.
It was revealed at a hearing in February that there had been confusion about whose jurisdiction the pre-seminary fell under, since it is located on Vatican property but managed by the Opera Don Folci, which is based in the Diocese of Como.
Bishop Oscar Cantoni of Como said that he had asked for clarification from Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the then archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica and vicar general for the Vatican City State, who explained that he was not responsible for the pre-seminary.
The bishop said that since “we lived in ambiguity,” he asked Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, who said that “there was no pact between the Vatican and Como.”
“I was able to clarify that the ultimate responsibility lies with the Diocese of Como,” Cantoni said.
Como diocese is currently investigating the Opera Don Folci, focusing primarily on economic and pedagogical matters. The investigation has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.