Vatican recalls Dominican Republic envoy amid abuse claims

Pope Francis at the Vatican on 4 September 2013 Pope Francis has vowed to act against child abuse allegations within the Church

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The Vatican has recalled its envoy to the Dominican Republic and launched an investigation after local media accused him of sexually abusing children.

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski had been the Apostolic Nuncio in Santo Domingo for nearly six years.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told the Reuters news agency he had been "relieved of his duties" and the Holy See had "begun an investigation".

Archbishop Wesolowski had been recalled "in the last few weeks", he added.

But he did not give details about the allegations.

The attorney general of the Dominican Republic, Francisco Dominguez Brito, told the Associated Press that his office was investigating what he called "rumours" of abuse, and that it had received no formal complaints.

The whereabouts of the 65-year-old Polish prelate are unknown.

Following his election in March, Pope Francis said dealing with sex abuse allegations was vital to the Roman Catholic Church's credibility.

In July, he strengthened laws that apply to clerics and lay people working in the Vatican - broadening out the definition of "crimes against minors" to include child prostitution, sexual violence, sexual acts with children, and indecent images of children.

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