Columbus priest accused of abuse in Los Angeles
By Jim Woods
June 04, 2018
A Maronite Catholic priest serving as administrator for the Sacred Heart Church in Italian Village was removed from the position by the Diocese of Columbus because of an investigation of an abuse allegation in California.
Parishioners at Sacred Heart were told at the 4 p.m. Saturday Mass that Father Pierre Albalaa had been ordered to leave the position he had started in March.
The diocese was informed last Monday by the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles that Albalaa was being investigated for a credible allegation of abuse of a minor in 2004 in California. Eparchy is the term for diocese used by Eastern rite Orthodox and Catholic churches.
The Los Angeles-based hierarchy of the Maronite rite of the Catholic Church had ordered that Albalaa be removed from active ministry while the case was being resolved, according to a release from the Diocese of Columbus.
Columbus Bishop Frederick F. Campbell on Monday immediately revoked Albalaa’s privileges in the diocese and directed him to vacate the premises at Sacred Heart. Albalaa complied with the order.
The Eparchy of Los Angeles stated it was the first complaint of this nature regarding Father Albalaa. Records provided to the Diocese of Columbus verified that he had a clean criminal background check, a diocese press release said.
During his brief tenure in Columbus no complaints were made against Albalaa, the diocese said. He was trained as a bi-ritual priest who had authority to practice with Maronite and Latin Rite churches, according to a posting announcing his initial appointment on the Sacred Heart Church website.
The Eparchy of Los Angeles will determine Albalaa’s future as a Maronite priest, said George Jones, spokesman for the Diocese of Columbus.
Jones would not answer questions about the nature of the allegation against Albalaa, saying those questions had to be directed to Maronite church officials in Los Angeles.
But the Diocese of Columbus press release states that anyone who experiences sexual abuse by clergy or others associated with the church should immediately contact law enforcement and the diocesan Victim’s Assistance Coordinator at 614-224-2251 or 866-448-0217, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Albalaa did not answer a call placed by The Dispatch to his cell phone.