di Marcello Mento
Pesaro, December 3 - A judge on Tuesday handed a 43-year-old priest in the north-eastern city of Pesaro a two-and-a-half year sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The case of Father Giangiacomo Ruggeri, a former spokesman for the bishop of Fano, began when a lifeguard saw the priest and the child passionately embracing on a beach last year. "She could have been my daughter", said Marco Mandolini, who promptly called the cops. Police later entered into evidence a covert videotape of Ruggeri, an ex girl-scout leader and diocese communications director, with his underage protegee on the beach on July 10 and 12, 2012. "I don't know what came over me", Ruggeri, who was the child's spiritual adviser, told police when he was arrested. "We all, beginning with the church, are and live with imperfect men", his employer, Bishop Armando Trasarti, said at the time. Immediately suspended by the church after his arrest, the errant priest spent five months in jail, followed by a period of reflection in a convent, a few months working in a church library in the city of Perugia, and a move to Rome, where he now works as a cook at a canteen for political refugees. "I accept the court's decision", Ruggeri told defense attorney Gianluca Sposito at today's sentencing. The victim's family will sue for damages in civil court, family attorney Omar Severi said. "We knew we could trust the prosecution and the court", Severi went on, adding that the family is bitter over the church's silence. "There has not been one letter of apology or phone call in all these months, not one contact", he said. Ruggeri was convicted in a fast-track trial, which in Italy awards the defendant an automatic two-thirds sentencing reduction if found guilty. He is still at liberty to travel within Italy and abroad, with two restrictions: he is not allowed to approach the town of Orciano, where his victim lives with her parents and her older sister, and he is not allowed to celebrate Mass in public. The Vatican's measures against him are still unknown.