Argentine victims of pedophile priests call the pope to account

Claudia Labeguerie, Ezequiel Villalonga and Daniel Sgardeli at a press conference at Buenos Aires airport on February 14.
Claudia Labeguerie, Ezequiel Villalonga and Daniel Sgardeli at a press conference at Buenos Aires airport on February 14. RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP

The Vatican has been alerted at least twice. By at least twice, the alerts have been ignored. It is to receive answers to their questions about this silence that three deaf victims raped during their childhood in a Catholic institute in Argentina want to meet Pope Francis in Rome, where they went on Wednesday, February 19.

"He knew, but he did nothing," they denounce. They asked by letter for an appointment "Public" to the Argentine pontiff, but have not yet received a response.

Before coming to Rome, the victims, who consider that they were "Tortured" by their attackers, went to Geneva, where they denounced the inaction of the Holy See to the UN Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. "In the world there are many countries where these things continue to happen and where there is silence"Daniel Sgardelis, 45, told Agence France-Presse when he visited Geneva.

Mr. Sgardelis is one of the victims of Nicola Corradi. This Italian priest was sentenced on November 25, 2019 by a court in Mendoza (western Argentina) to 42 years in prison for raping and sexually assaulting eleven minors at the Provolo Institute, a free Catholic establishment for deaf children of modest origin. Another priest was sentenced to 45 years in prison and the former gardener of the institute to 18 years in prison. The rape victims were between 4 and 17 years old.

Transfer of priest accused of sexual assault

Now 83, Nicola Corradi arrived in Argentina in 1984, transferred from the Provolo Institute in Verona (north-west Italy) – the parent company of the Mendoza establishment – after accusations of sexual assaults he allegedly committed between the 1950s and the 1980s.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Two priests sentenced to more than 40 years in prison for rape of minors in Argentina

He first headed the Provolo de La Plata Institute (60 km south of Buenos Aires). Then from 1996, that of Mendoza (1000 km west of the capital), until his detention on remand in November 2016 and the closure of the institute, when the scandal broke out. He is also accused of assaulting children in La Plata.

According to the non-governmental organization ECA ("Ending clergy abuse", "Put an end to the abuse of the clergy"), Father Corradi was reported to the Vatican in 2009 by Italian deaf and dumb men from the Verona Institute, victims of the priest before his transfer to Argentina.

Then, on May 9, 2014, in a video broadcast on Italian television on the Mediaset group channels, seventeen victims of pedophile priests, including former members of the Provolo Institute, accused the Church of remaining silent.

Without an official reaction, a registered letter was sent on October 20, 2014 to the Bishop of Verona, Mgr Giuseppe Zenti, with a copy to Pope Francis and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"Our history is at the heart of omerta"

One of the Italian victims, Giuseppe Consiglio, claims to have delivered the same letter by hand to the Argentine pontiff on October 28, 2015. Francis had blessed him and asked his forgiveness. But Giuseppe never received a response to the letter. And Nicola Corradi remained in place until his arrest.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Pope accused of protecting priests suspected of pedophile acts in Argentina and Italy

“We have been raped, sexually assaulted and tortured by Catholic priests, sisters and lay personnel. Our history is at the very heart of the omerta on these crimes in our country. These crimes were no secret either to the hierarchy of the Church in Argentina, or to the hierarchy of the Vatican ", the Argentine victims denounced in a press release from the organization ECA.

This affair in Argentina is one of many that are shaking the Church around the world. For decades, she covered up these abuses by transferring priests to other countries, a practice that François promised to end. "I want to tell the pope that we have the strength to continue fighting for justice"said another 19-year-old Argentinian victim, Ezequiel Villalonga.

According to ECA founder Peter Isely, the Argentinian case is just one of many. Many abuses committed by priests have yet to be discovered, he believes. "It will explode again. In Latin America, Africa, Asia, this is just the beginning ”he told AFP.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here