Vatican prosecutor seeks prison for priest in abuse trial

VATICAN CITY — A prosecutor for the Holy See asked a Vatican court Thursday to convict and sentence an Italian priest for the alleged sexual abuse of a former altar boy on Vatican City property.

The charges against the Rev. Gabriele Martinelli stem from abuse that allegedly took place at the Vatican’s youth seminary. The case is the first to go to trial alleging sexual abuse within the Vatican’s walls.

Prosecutor Roberto Zannotti argued for Martinelli’s conviction on charges of aggravated carnal violence and aggravated libertine acts. The prosecutor requested an eight-year prison sentence, reduced to four years, for the first charge, and a sentence of four years, reduced to two years, for the latter.

The prosecutor said he asked for reduced sentences because Martinelli also was a minor and a seminarian when the alleged crimes were committed.

Earlier in the trial, the former altar boy testified that he arrived at the seminary from northern Italy as a 13-year-old and Martinelli began molesting him a few months later.

The prosecution alleges that Martinelli used his authority as a more senior seminarian, threats and violence to force the younger boy into acts of sodomy and masturbation from 2007 to-2012.

Martinelli had denied molesting his accuser, who is being identified only as L.G.

Students from the St. Pius X seminary serve as altar boys during papal Masses at St. Peter’s Basilica.

In 2017, former altar boys went public with abuse accusations against Martinelli and cover-up allegations against seminary superiors.

A former seminary rector, the Rev. Enrico Radice, is charged with having helped Martinelli avoid investigators by discrediting L.G.’s allegations as baseless. Radice has denied knowing anything about abuse or impeding the probe.

The prosecutor asked the court to convict and sentence Radice to four years in prison.

The trial was set to continue on Friday.