The Catholic Church in India Tuesday said it has not received any request so far asking for the return of priest Rev Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul – accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in America – for trial in the US.
“The diocese has not received any request so far on his return to the US,” the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), the supreme body 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 Rev. Joseph Palanivel 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 Ootacamund in southern India, said the report.
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, reports said.