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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 October 2007, 19:33 GMT 20:33 UK
Vatican bars prelate in gay row
Aerial view of the Vatican (file)
The Vatican rarely comments on sexual scandals involving priests
The Vatican has confirmed local newspaper reports that a high-ranking Catholic priest has been suspended.

The man, who works in the department in charge of clergy around the world, appeared on Italian TV earlier this month admitting that he was gay.

The prelate had been suspended pending further investigation, said Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombari.

He says he was interviewed "fraudulently" with a hidden camera and now denies his earlier statement.

In a letter published in an Italian online newspaper, Petrus, he writes: "I said I was homosexual in order to unmask those who really are."

Disguised voice

He has been publicly named as Tommaso Stenico, and has confirmed that he gave the interview.

Father Lombardi said that he had clearly acted in a way that was incompatible with his status inside the world headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

Monsignor Stenico appeared on an investigative programme about gay priests on an Italian commercial TV channel, La7.

He was filmed inside his private office in the Vatican.

Although his voice was disguised, colleagues and friends easily identified him as a monsignor who frequently used to appear as anchorman and even celebrate Mass on a well known local Catholic TV channel.

Monsignor Stenico told his interviewer that he did not regard himself as being in a state of sin because of his homosexual activities but was forced to keep them secret because of the church's teaching on the subject.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says the Vatican rarely comments on sexual scandal involving priests and the prompt admission of this priest's suspension is unusual.

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