Josef Wesolowski Vatican Child Abuse
Former archbishop Josef Wesolowski is facing trial for child abuseReuters

In an unprecedented move, the Vatican has ordered a former archbishop to stand trial on charges of sexually abusing young boys and holding child pornography.

The Holy See announced that criminal proceedings against its former envoy to the Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski, 66, will commence on 11 July.

"The ex-prelate is accused of a number of offences committed both during his stay in Rome from August 2013 until the moment of his arrest [on 22 September 2014] and in the period he spent in the Dominican Republic, during the five years in which he held the office of apostolic nuncio," the Vatican said in a statement.

"With regard to the period spent in Rome, the nuncio is charged with the offence of possession of child pornography," under a law recently introduced by Pope Francis, the Vatican added.

"The allegations referring to the preceding period are based on evidence transmitted by the judicial authorities of Santo Domingo in relation to the sexual abuse of minors.

"These serious allegations will be scrutinised by the competent judicial body, which will be assisted by both technical appraisals of the IT systems used by the defendant and, if necessary, international legal co-operation for the evaluation of testimonial evidence from the competent authorities in Santo Domingo."

Wesolowski was arrested in Rome after being recalled from the Dominican Republic over media allegations he had hired "rent boys".

He was subsequently found guilty of sexual abuse and defrocked – the first top papal representative to receive such a sentence – in a canonical trial that opened the doors to a criminal investigation.

During the probe, Vatican detectives reportedly found more than 100,000 sexually explicit files on his Santo Domingo office computer, with a second stash of material retrieved on a laptop he used during his trips abroad.

The Polish native has spent the last nine months under modified house arrest at the Vatican, serving the custodial measure in a small room in the basement of the Collegio dei Penitenzieri, a convent located in the same building hosting the Vatican's court and gendarmerie in the Santa Marta square.