ucanews.com reporter, Manila
Updated: August 27, 2014 11:45 PM GMT
Fr Nilo Apura (Photo courtesy of Mercer County Prosecutor's Office)
A Filipino Catholic priest has been arrested and charged in the United States with sexually abusing a teenage boy.
Romannilo “Nilo” Apura, 67, was arrested on August 21 at St Martha Parish rectory in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, where the priest has been serving as pastor, a source at the Philippines bishops’ conference told ucanews.com on Thursday.
Apura, originally from Borongan City in Eastern Samar province, allegedly molested the 16-year-old at the boy’s family home in Trenton, New Jersey earlier this year.
A second incident occurred in June, when the priest reportedly tried to remove the same boy’s pants.
Trenton diocese, in a statement, said it took the allegations against Apura and his arrest with "heavy hearts."
Apura has served as pastor of St Martha Parish since July 2012.
The Times of Trenton reported that the local bishop, David O’Connell, has already suspended Apura pending the outcome of the investigation by police and recommendations from the diocesan review board.
Bishop O’Connell was quoted as saying that the suspension prohibits Apura from celebrating Mass publicly, wearing priestly garb, or presenting himself as a priest.
"Sexual abuse committed by anyone representing the Church is a sin against God and His people, and a betrayal of the trust placed in the Church by families,” the diocese said in a separate statement.
"We reiterate our firm commitment to the safeguards and initiatives in place to keep our children safe, and we ask the faithful throughout the diocese to pray for all who may have been harmed in this case," the statement added.
The diocese said it will continue to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
Apura was ordained a priest in Borongan diocese where he served for several years before leaving for the US in the 1980s.
The priest has long been incardinated in Trenton diocese and is also an American citizen.
Child sex abuse scandals involving priests continue to plague the Catholic Church around the world.
Early this year, Pope Francis begged forgiveness from victims of clerical sexual abuse and vowed to hold bishops accountable for their handling of pedophile priests.
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