San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza yesterday said he has relieved the Roman Catholic priest accused of allegedly molesting a 4-year-old girl in Cadiz City and assured that the Church is committed to search for the truth.
“We will make sure the process will be fair and just to both parties, and whoever is responsible will have to face the consequences,” he said.
Chief Inspector Robert Mansueto, Cadiz City police officer-in-charge, yesterday identified the priest as Fr. Aron Buenacosa, parish priest of St. Joseph Parish Church in Brgy. Caduha-an, Cadiz City.
The relief of the priest from his post is not a punishment, he is presumed innocent until proven otherwise, Alminaza said. The priest was asked to take a leave of absence to give way for an impartial investigation and to give himself the needed space to confront the allegations, the bishop said.
“We are greatly saddened and shocked that a young child is alleged to have been molested by one of our clergy. While our Holy Father is calling for an ‘all-out battle’ against the sexual abuse of minors, and to turn this evil into an ‘opportunity for purification’, we in the Diocese of San Carlos are challenged to ‘walk the talk’,” Alminaza said.
The bishop said the accused priest, to his credit, was prompt to inform him of such allegation which he denied doing.
“He himself was shocked to be accused of such action and he is willing to face the allegation to prove his innocence. We also acknowledge his right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise, and we are committed to assist and cooperate in the process so the truth will come out and justice is served,” Alminaza said.
Following the recent guidelines of Pope Francis to focus on protecting children rather than protecting the institution and to provide the accompaniment of those who have been abused with an emphasis on listening, Alminaza said they are reaching out to the family of the minor.
“We assure the family we are concerned that their child is given proper care and intervention and we have asked our parish leaders to reach out to them on our behalf. We have offered help and support as well both to the accused and her family of origin, the pastoral council and eventually to our presbyterium and the affected parish community,” he added.
He said that while they allow the legal process to take its course, the Church will proceed with its own canonical process which involves providing pastoral care to the alleged victim and accused, and whoever is involved in the investigation.
“I have assigned a priest to take over temporarily the shepherding of the parish concerned in order to give the accused time to spiritually prepare himself to face the allegations and to give way for an impartial investigation,” the bishop said.
The bishop called on the faithful to pray for everyone involved in the case.
Alminaza said they draw consolation from Pope Francis who has said “if our hearts are open to mercy … we proclaim before the world that it is possible to overcome evil with good.”*
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