Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.
© Reuters
Vatican police have arrested a clergyman and diplomat who has reportedly been identified as a suspect in a child pornography case.

Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella was detained by Holy See security officials on Saturday, the Vatican said. The suspect formerly worked as a Vatican City diplomat to the US, reported La Republica, but was suddenly recalled from his position in Washington last year.

The US State Department identified Capella as having possibly violated child pornography laws. It's alleged the monsignor downloaded and disseminated child pornography during a visit to Canada.

The press office for the Pope has addressed the allegations against Capella, saying he was arrested regarding Article 10 of Vatican State Law, which relates to child pornography. If found guilty of violating this law, Capella could face up to 12 years in prison. Capella is in custody at police barracks near St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

"This morning at the suggestion of Promoter of Justice, the Judge Instructor of the Vatican City State Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Mons. Carlo Alberto Capella. The accused is detained in a cell at the barracks of the Corps of the Gendarmerie," the statement reads.

During his tenure, Pope Francis has promised a crackdown on clerical abuse. In 2017, the Pontiff vowed to have "zero tolerance" for sexual abuse, which has tarnished the church for decades.

However, the Pope has been criticized for his handling of abuse victims. Earlier this year, he was accused of causing "pain and offense" to victims of Reverend Fernando Karadima. Speaking about allegations that a bishop had concealed Karadima's crimes, Francis indicated that victims were in danger of slandering the bishop, Juan Barros, who, as a protégé of Karadima, has also been the subject of controversy.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I'll speak. There is not one shred of proof against him. It's all calumny [defamation]," the pontiff said, to much criticism.

Karadima was first reported to the church in 2002, over allegations he would kiss and fondle his adolescent parishioners in the Chilean capital, Santiago. An official Vatican investigation was launched in 2010. While the Catholic Church removed him from ministry and sentenced him to a lifetime of "penance and prayer," Karadima escaped criminal charges. Barros is alleged to have witnessed some of Karadima's abuse.