Roman Catholic priest Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, facing charges of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Minnesota, United Sates, was on Tuesday asked by the Archbishop of Madras to return to the U.S. for further investigations.
As the Diocese of Udhagamandalam, the home Diocese of Jeypaul, which oversees the priest of Indian origin, said it is probing the matter in detail. The Archbishop of Madras Rev. Fr. M. Chinnappa said he has spoken to the Bishop of Ootacamund on Tuesday to take action against the priest. Fr. Jeyapaul is currently staying in the hill town in Tamil Nadu.
“I have asked the Bishop of Ooty to comply with the demands of the case. Jeyapaul must return to the U.S. if necessary for further investigations. He has to oblige. There is no way out,” Fr. Chinnappa said in Chennai.
Prosecutors in Minnesota yesterday said they were trying to extradite 55-year-old Jeyapaul. Fr. Jeyapaul, however, has denied the sexual abuse allegations and reported to have said he has no plans to return to the U.S. to face the courts there.
In a statement handed over to reporters, who had gone to meet Fr. Jeyapaul in Udhagamandalam, Bishop Fr. Amulraj of the Diocese said the matter has already been referred to the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), the highest Catholic Organistaion in India for necessary direction.
Fr. Amulraj earlier said Fr. Jeyapaul had gone to meet his advocate to Chennai regarding the cases, which came to limelight through the press.
In the statement, Fr. Amulraj stated that it was true that the said priest was working in the Diocese of Crookstone in the State of Minnesota in the U.S. from September 2004 to August 2005.
“Suddenly he had to rush back to India to see his ailing mother and he never returned to U.S. since then,” Fr. Amulraj said.
“In the meantime some sexual abuse cases connected to Fr. Jeyapaul emerged and we conducted an enquiry into the matter.
“As the above allegations could not be proved beyond doubt, he was placed under the direct supervision of the Bishop.
“Now the same allegations have come up to limelight through the press, we are studying the matter in detail,” he said.
People in and around the area are tight-lipped about the presence of Fr. Jeyapaul either in the Bishop’s house or in the Nilgiris, since he was instrumental in providing jobs, including temporary ones, to the poor and needy in 12 schools run by the Diocese, a worker in one of the schools said on the condition of anonymity.
Father Babu Joseph of the CBCI said, “he(Jeyapaul) will certainly cooperate with the civil authorities (in US) inquiring into the matter in case there is further need for him to go to the US.”
“We are taking the allegations against him (Jeyapaul) seriously,” Joseph said, adding “already some administrative actions have been taken against him.”
“He has not been assigned any parish or any pastor work. On the contrary he has been asked to stay in the Bishop’s house and help out in his office work... He has been kept away from children and people,” he added.