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Vatican is cooperating with US officials on Indian priest case

world Updated: Apr 06, 2010 20:21 IST

The Vatican is cooperating with American authorities seeking to extradite a priest, who is currently in India and has been accused of molesting two girls, lawyer for the Roman Catholic Hierarchy has said.

"The Holy See has cooperated with the requests of law enforcement authorities seeking the extradition of Father Jeyapaul to the United States, and in fact provided his exact location in India to assist such efforts," a statement from Vatican lawyer Jeffrey Lena said on the Jeyapaul Case.

Father Joseph Jeyapaul, who is currently in Tamil Nadu, has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct stemming from accusations 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.

Jeyapaul was temporarily assigned to the Diocese of Crookston in Minnesota in 2004 and was accused of repeatedly molesting a 16-year-old girl in the rectory.

According to the criminal complaint, the teenage girl accused Jeyapaul of threatening to kill her family if she did not come into the rectory, where he then forced her to perform oral sex on him and groped her in the fall of 2004.

"The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested in this matter that Father Jeyapaul agree to laicisation, demonstrating that the Congregation believed that the accusations were serious enough to merit dismissal from the clerical state.

However, as a matter of longstanding canon law, such decisions are made by the local bishop, who is deemed to be generally in the best position to adjudicate the case relating to the priest in question," the statement added.

Lena further said the decision regarding the canonical penalties imposed upon Father Jeyapaul was made by the Bishop of Ootacamund, whose diocese is located in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu in India.

Jeyapaul has spent the past five years working in Catholic schools in India despite warnings from a US bishop, court documents said.

According to a letter released by a lawyer representing the victim in a civil lawsuit, Bishop Victor Balke of Minnesota had first reported the allegations to the Vatican and the priest's Indian bishop in 2005 stating that Jeyapaul could pose a "serious risk" to the women and girls of his Indian parish.