Priest found with handgun on ferry was 'asked to get rid of it after confession'
An Italian priest is being held in jail after he was found to be carrying a gun during a security check on a ferry.
The unnamed 33-year-old priest was found with the .9mm calibre handgun as he boarded a ferry bound for Sardinia at Civitavecchia, north of Rome.
Dressed in black robes and a dog collar, the handgun was found during an X-ray on the priest's luggage.
Police were called and he was taken to a local jail, where he insisted for several hours that the Catholic doctrine prevented him from revealing details about the gun as it had been given to him during a confession.
He eventually told police that the gun had been given to him by a 70-year-old parishioner, who had asked him to get rid of it - and he had planned to throw it overboard into the sea during the voyage.
According to the report in the Daily Mail, police chief Antonio Del Greco said: "For the time being the priest will have to stay in custody. He is being held on suspicion of illegal possession of a firearm.
"The weapon was found in his luggage during a security check before he boarded a ferry heading to Sardinia - which left without him.
"He has told us the briefest of details about how he got the gun during a confession and what he was supposed to do with it but he refuses to say anymore because he cannot betray what he was told.
"All he has told us is that it was given to him by a 70-year-old parishioner during confession who asked him to get rid of it.
"When he was asked why he hasn't called police the priest said he could not reveal details of what he had heard during the confession.'
He added: "We need to know the history of the gun and why the priest had it in his luggage. Until we get some answers he will remain in custody."
Under the Catholic Church's Canon Law, "it is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason".
A priest can therefore not be compelled by law to disclose a person's confession and, if he does, he can be excommunicated.
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