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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Friday said it has recalled one of its diplomats from Washington after the U.S. State Department said the priest may have violated child pornography laws.

Prosecutors in the Vatican have opened an investigation into the case and the priest has already returned to Vatican City, a statement said.

The State Department notified the Holy See in August "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 statement said.

As a member of the Vatican's diplomatic corps, the priest, whose name was not given, could not be prosecuted in the United States, though he could have been expelled.

Two years ago the Vatican put the former papal ambassador to the Dominican Republic on trial for child sex offences, a case that was seen as showing Pope Francis's determination to clean up the Church, which has faced repeated abuse scandals.

The priest, Jozef Wesolowski, was defrocked by a Vatican tribunal. He died before a ruling was reached in a trial at the Holy See.

Just last month, in the foreword to a new book written by a Swiss man who was raped by a priest when he was eight years old, Pope Francis said sexual abuse of children by priests was a "monstrosity" and pledged to take action against perpetrators.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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Reuters