ROME – Argentine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, who is serving a sentence of four years and six months in prison for sexually abusing two seminarians, left prison to be hospitalized in a private clinic, reportedly due to high blood pressure.

In mid-April, the former bishop of Oran, in the northern Argentine province Salta, had requested house arrest due to alleged health problems. The court has yet to rule on this request.

However, on Friday, he was hospitalized in a private clinic, at the order of his personal doctor.

Zanchetta’s new lawyer, Dario Palmier, said that the prelate has hypertension and has a “very delicate kidney disease. It is a disease related to his venous system. He got the diagnosis in Rome.”

“The truth is that he could collapse at any moment,” he told local newspaper Salta/12.

The lawyer also said that more than a month ago, Zanchetta’s defense team requested that the bishop emeritus serve his prison sentence under house arrest, saying that prison rapidly deteriorated the prelate’s health. He also said that “the medical examinations are taking a long time.”

Palmier added that they are awaiting the Court of Appeals’ decision on their appeal of the bishop’s conviction.

The defense lawyer also confirmed that the place offered for the bishop to serve house arrest is the Monastery Nuestra Señora del Valle, in Oran, which belongs to the Franciscan nuns of the Order of the Immaculate Conception.

Days prior to his hospitalization, the bishop was transferred to a public hospital for a hypertension crisis, but he was medicated and sent back to prison. On Friday, he once again said he was ill. His defense team got him examined by a private doctor, who requested he be hospitalized in a private health center.

The court that will have to rule on his home imprisonment is the same one that originally found him guilty of the crime of “simple sexual abuse aggravated by being committed by a recognized religious minister.”

Zanchetta would often boast of his friendship with Pope Francis, who believed the bishop’s claim he was being set up when the allegations were first made against him.

Zanchetta was made a bishop and appointed to Oran by Francis in 2013, soon after the Argentine pontiff assumed office. The two men served together in the country’s bishops’ conference.

Zanchetta resigned at the age of 53 in 2017, claiming “health reasons.” A few months later, Francis named him Assessor to the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which administers the Vatican’s financial portfolio.

In 2018, it became public that Zanchetta had been accused of both sexual misconduct and financial wrongdoing, although a Vatican spokesman insisted there were no abuse allegations at the time Zanchetta was brought to Rome.

According to Pope Francis, a canonical process against him was opened, but to date the Vatican has revealed no information on its own investigation into the bishop.

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