5 Nov 2010

Respected Italian Priest Charged With Sexually Abusing Boys In Brazil Working With Children In Mozambique

CBS News - Associated Press August 19, 2009

Lauded Priest In Brazil Accused Of Abusing Boys

Brazilian Prosecutor Accuses Italian Priest Who Ran Kids' Shelter Of Sexually Abusing Boys

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP)An Italian priest who ran an award-winning shelter for homeless children in Brazil has been charged with sexually abusing boys for years and allowing visiting foreigners to exploit the children, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Father Clodoveo Piazza, now working as a missionary in Mozambique, was charged along with another former director of the nonprofit group Fraternal Help Organization, a private group based in Salvador.

Lidivaldo Britto, chief prosecutor for Bahia state in northeastern Brazil, said at least 10 boys were sexually abused over several years while Piazza ran the group.

"He is working with kids in Mozambique, and this is worrying for us. We need to alert the international community, and we're sending along a copy of the charges to the Mozambique Embassy," Britto said. "We're afraid that kids there are in a similar dangerous situation."

Piazza spent three decades in Brazil working with children, Britto said. From 2001 until 2006 he worked for Bahia state government programs that combat poverty and inequality. Britto said Piazza left in 2007 to do missionary work in Mozambique.

A judge will now decide whether to request extradition or an Interpol arrest warrant, Britto said.

Charges were also filed against Marcos de Paiva Silva, another former director of the Fraternal Help Organization. Under Brazilian law, Silva is free pending trial or until a judge orders his imprisonment.

Roman Catholic Church officials in Brazil confirmed that Piazza was a priest but declined to comment on the case. A spokesman for the nonprofit group did not immediately provide a response.

Calls to lawyer Gamil Foppel, who told the newspaper Jornal do Comercio in Salvador that he was representing Piazza, were not returned.

Britto said the children implicated foreign visitors in the sexual abuse without being able to identify them.

"The kids ... told us a number of foreigners would visit the institution over the years. They would arrive and choose a child to sleep with them," Britto said. "The kids slept naked with them and they were sexually abused."

A Web site for the Fraternal Help Organization's Italian branch said Piazza "is known and beloved in all of Latin America for his work on behalf of street kids and youths who are in dire straits."

In 2005, the group was awarded a $600,000 grant from Brazil's national development bank to set up four facilities in Salvador.

If convicted of sexual abuse and facilitating sexual exploitation, Piazza and Silva could receive up to 10 years in jail.

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