Official of Vatican embassy is charged with death threat

Worker alleges she was harassed for months

January 11, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

TORONTO -- The Vatican's elegant diplomatic compound in Ottawa is usually one of the most tranquil and circumspect embassies in Canada.

But lately it has been the focus of much attention because the local police have charged one of the embassy's senior officials, a Roman Catholic monsignor, with harassing a former employee and threatening to kill her.

According to court documents filed Nov. 10, Monsignor Vito Rallo, an Italian who is the second-highest-ranking representative of the Pope in Canada, physically intimidated a female employee repeatedly from July 1997 to March of last year.

Rallo, 45, has refused requests for comment on the criminal charges made by Josephine Greco, 52, who was the embassy's cultural attache until she was dismissed Sept. 30. The Vatican has also declined to comment.

Generally, diplomats like Rallo are protected from criminal prosecution by diplomatic immunity.

Charles Gibson, a local lawyer representing Rallo, said the charges were without merit. He said he was skeptical about Greco's motives for filing a complaint and called her "a disgruntled employee" with a vendetta against the embassy.

"There were problems related to her work," Gibson said in a telephone interview. "But no one has been served with any papers so I'm not sure exactly what it is that she is claiming."

Greco said she filed her complaint with the police in August, a month before she was dismissed.

"I am not a disgruntled employee," she said. "He threatened to kill me."

Greco was born in Italy and holds both American and Italian passports. She said her responsibilities as attache included preparing background reports on members of the Canadian clergy.

Greco would not say what she believed had motivated Rallo to threaten her, but she said harassment began soon after she joined the embassy four years ago.

She said that when the pattern of harassment became more violent, she contacted the police. "I was advised that I should file a complaint because if I were not to do anything at all, something bad could happen," she said.

Greco claimed that her health deteriorated in the time she worked at the embassy. She suffered angina attacks and was hospitalized. She said she lost about two weeks of work last summer.

She said it was while she was on sick leave that she was dismissed.

The Ottawa police would not discuss the case, but in the complaint filed with the Ontario provincial court, Rallo is accused of engaging "in threatening conduct" that caused Greco "to fear for her safety."

Pub Date: 1/11/99

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