Father Walter William Rozario, right, is seen here with Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi Diocese, center, in this file photo. (Photo courtesy St. Paul Café)
A Catholic bishop in Bangladesh has rejected police claims that a priest who disappeared ahead of Pope Francis' visit had sought to escape from "psychological pressure," and had not been abducted.
"We are not aware that he was psychologically distressed," said Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi Diocese, where the priest was stationed.
"The police have cooked up a story, as they seem reluctant to carry out further investigations. They seem to have pressurized the priest into making a false statement," said Bishop Rozario, who is also chairman of the Catholic bishops' Justice and Peace Commission.
Father Walter Rozario, 41, assistant parish priest at the Maria Virgo Potens Church in northern Natore district went missing on Nov. 27 in nearby Bonpara, a Christian stronghold.
The priest, headmaster of the local church-run St. Louis High School was involved in preparatory work for the pope's visit and the publication of a souvenir booklet dedicated to two deacons ordained by the pope.
Police found the priest in the northeastern city of Sylhet, about 413 kilometers from Natore on Dec. 1 after he reportedly escaped from his "abductors" and called his brother for help.
During a press briefing on Dec. 2, Natore police chief, Biplob Bijoy Talukder claimed the priest had not been abducted but had sought to be on his own to escape from psychological distress.
"In his statement, Walter Rozario admitted he was suffering psychological distress. He realized people were anxious about his safety, so he came out of hiding," Natore police spokesman Nasiruddin Mondol told Bengali daily Prothom Alo on Dec. 3.