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Friday, November 21, 1997 Published at 14:10 GMT



Despatches
image: [ BBC Correspondent: Orla Guerin ]Orla Guerin
From Rome

The Roman Catholic Church in Italy has been hit by allegations of sexual misconduct by a high-ranking bishop. Claims by a former church worker that she had an affair with Bishop Alberto Ablondi, bishop of the north-western city of Livorno, have hit the headlines. The bishop has denied the allegations. From Rome, Orla Guerin reports:

The former church worker, a 53 year old woman, sold a salacious account of the alleged relationship to a weekly gossip magazine. The magazine said it had first learned of the story via three tape recordings of conversations between the bishop and the woman. It received the tapes from an unidentified individual. The woman, Laura Magrini, claims she had a clandestine love affair with the bishop which lasted for 12 years, ending in 1990. Bishop Alberto Ablondi, who is now 72 has appeared on national television to deny the allegation. He says the woman made advances towards him but denied breaking his vow of celibacy. I have sinned, he said, but I have not committed this sin. He said the woman had been dismissed by the diocese after a couple of years. The woman's account of this alleged passionate liaison has generated considerable media interest here and caused embarrassment for the Catholic Church. In recent years there have been a series of scandals over affairs which priests and bishops have admitted or been accused of. So far the Vatican has not commented on this latest allegation and it's unlikely to do so.





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