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Rev Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, Accused Catholic priest asked to return to US

Chennai/New Delhi, April 6 The Archbishop of Madras Rev Fr M.Chinnappa has asked Rev Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul - accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in America - to return to the US and face the sexual assault case filed against him.

According to Chinnappa, he has spoken to the Bishop of Ootacamund (Ooty), around 535 km from here, where Jeyapaul is at present posted.

Chinnappa said Jeyapaul has to comply with the demands.

Meanwhile, Bishop Fr.Amulraj of the Ooty Diocese told reporters that the matter has been referred to the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) for direction.

Confirming that Jeyapaul was working in the Diocese of Crookstone in the US' Minnesota state between September 2004 and August 2005, Amulraj said the priest had to return to India owing to his mother's ill health.

According to him, the enquiry conducted in the light of complaints of sexual abuse was not able to prove the charge.

However, Jeyapaul was kept under the direct supervision of the bishop.

With the same complaint cropping up, the matter is being studied in detail, he added.

Jeyapaul is currently wanted on two counts of criminal sexual conduct stemming from accusations that he assaulted a young female parishioner in the fall of 2004 at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, Minnesota, where he was working. Each charge carries a sentence of up to 30 years in jail, reports said.

The Catholic Church in India Tuesday said it has not received any request so far asking for the return of Jeyapaul for trial in the US.

"The diocese has not received any request so far on his return to the US," the CBCI, the supreme forum of Catholics in the country, said about Jeyapaul, who is of Indian origin.

It was reacting to reports that the priest, who is currently working in his home diocese of Ootacamund (Ooty) in southern India, has no plans to return to the US to face the courts.

CBCI spokesman Rev Babu Joseph said the church had given an assurance that the priest would cooperate fully with investigating agencies on the allegations.

"The bishop (of Ooty) did take administrative action against him and the bishop also has assured that the priest would cooperate fully with the investigating agencies," Joseph told IANS.

He said there were allegations against the priest while he was working at Minnesota in the US "and investigations have been going on".

"In the meantime, he returned to India and joined his diocese, Ooty," Joseph said.

The bishop of Ooty did not assign Jeyapaul any pastoral duty as there were allegations of sexual assault against him and he was assigned to the office at the bishop's house.

Quoting church documents, media reports have said the Vatican was alerted to the accusations against Jeyapaul more than three years ago but did not respond.

The priest has received only a minor punishment and is currently working in his bishop's office processing teachers' appointments for a dozen church schools in the diocese of Ooty. (IANS)

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