A Vatican court has sentenced a Catholic priest to five years in jail for possessing child pornography while he was based in the US as a diplomat.

Carlo Alberto Capella will serve time in the small jail inside the Vatican police force headquarters, the Vatican said on Saturday. He was also fined 5000 euros ($A7840).

Prosecutor Gian Piero Milano had asked for the sentence to be stiffer due to what he called the “great” amount of material seized, which included 40 to 55 photos, films and Japanese animation found on his mobile phone, an iCloud and Tumblr account, which Capella accessed even after he had been recalled by the Vatican in August 2017.

Capella’s lawyer disputed that Capella had distributed the material. He denied the amount of porn was excessive and noted that his client had co-operated with investigators, repented and was seeking psychological help.

During the first day of the trial on Friday, prosecutors and Vatican investigators revealed that the material featuring children aged 14-17 engaged in sexual acts.

The trial lasted two days and Capella admitted at the first hearing on Friday that he had developed a “morbid” desire after he arrived in the US to take up the diplomatic post in the Vatican’s embassy in Washington in 2016.

“It was never part of my priestly life before,” he told the court, adding that he was unhappy in Washington.

The US State Department notified the Vatican in August 2017 of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See accredited to Washington.

The US later requested that Capella’s diplomatic immunity be waived to open the way for possible prosecution there, but the Vatican refused.

Police in Windsor, Canada said after Capella was recalled to Rome that they had issued an arrest warrant for him on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography on the internet while visiting a church in Canada.

It is the first such trial of its kind inside the Vatican. Capella apologised to his family and the Holy See, and appealed for leniency by saying the episode was just a “bump in the road” of a priestly vocation he loved and wanted to continue.

Australian Associated Press

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