Zenit.org).- Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, is expressing his "profound grief" over the case of Father Riccardo Seppia, who was arrested for pedophilia and drug charges.

Father Seppia, 51, was a parish priest of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, before he was arrested May 13. Investigators say they have evidence of him arranging sexual encounters with minors as young as 14, and offering cocaine to older youth.

Cardinal Bagnasco issued a communiqué the day of the priest's arrest to express his "full confidence" in the magistrates' investigations, in addition to his "fraternal closeness to the victims and their families." He also affirmed his "renewed solidarity of the Christian community, which is being so painfully tested." 

In addition, the cardinal pointed out that, "in keeping with canonical discipline and in particular with the directives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," Father Seppia was immediately suspended "of all pastoral ministry and all sacramental acts, in addition to the immediate revocation of the faculty to hear sacramental confessions." 

In a homily last Thursday at Genoa's Shrine of Our Lady of Guardia, on the occasion of the Day of Priestly Sanctification, the cardinal spoke of the "sorrow for all the forms of sin and evil that, if they have really been committed by our brother, disfigures the beauty of the soul, scandalizes souls and wounds the face of the Church."

"Our grief is so profound because it was so unforeseen and unexpected -- nothing seemed to presage it. We want to entrust to the Virgin all those who have suffered the scandal in any way, and communicate to them our humble and sincere closeness," he said.

"We believe," Cardinal Bagnasco continued, "that our expression and feelings of sorrow will lead us to important reflections on the path of conversion necessary for all, which tirelessly challenges all the disciples of Christ, all the true ministers of God." 

"As docile children," he added, "let us pray to the Virgin Mary that we might have the courage of the truth, to scrutinize ourselves deep down to sing the works of the Lord, because the Lord's love is faithful and eternal, as the Psalm says which we have just prayed: He never abandons us, he is always with us if we make room for him in our hearts."