Priest Faces Many Counts of Sexual Assault
The Rev. Daniel M. Azzarone Jr., 50, of St. Mary Church, in Cranston, Is Arraigned on Charges of Sexually Assaulting a Teenager
By David McPherson
November 16, 2001
Cranston - A Catholic priest has been charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy many times over the past year, the police say.
The Cranston police arrested the Rev. Daniel M. Azzarone Jr., 50, an assistant pastor at St. Mary Church, as he returned to the church rectory shortly before midnight Wednesday.
They said they charged Father Azzarone with multiple counts of first-degree sexual assault for a series of incidents stretching over the past year involving a Cranston teenager.
"We're hoping the news that broke today will bring forth other victims," Capt. William B. Burroughs said.
Burroughs said the priest first befriended the Cranston boy when the child was in the fourth grade. "They would go out to dinner together," he said.
The boy's family was active in their church, Burroughs said, and the boy eventually got a job at the rectory answering phones, doing filing, and other odd jobs.
Burroughs said Father Azzarone began assaulting the boy a year ago, after a weeklong parish-sponsored cruise to the Caribbean. Father Azzarone was one of the chaperones for a group of about 50 young parishioners, Burroughs said.
Burroughs said the police have searched Father Azzarone's rectory apartment, where it is alleged he assaulted the boy, but he would not say what they found because the police have to review the evidence.
Last week, Burroughs said, the police became aware of an allegation that Father Azzarone had provided the boy with alcohol. In their investigation, the police questioned the boy, who denied that Father Azzarone had assaulted him, Burroughs said.
Then, on Wednesday, Burroughs said, the boy and his mother came back to the police station.
This time, the boy wanted to talk, Burroughs said.
Father Azzarone was arraigned yesterday in District Court, Providence, before Judge Michael Higgins, who ordered the priest held without bail pending a hearing Tuesday.
The Most Rev. Robert E. Mulvee, bishop of Providence, upon learning of the arrest while attending the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gathering in Washington, D.C., placed Azzarone on administrative leave. Father Azzarone will not function publicly as a priest while on leave, Bishop Mulvee said.
"I am very saddened," the bishop said in a statement. "I shall offer my prayers for the diocesan family who share our pain when accusations such as this are made. I'll pray for Father Azzarone and his accuser. They face many difficult days ahead."
Father Azzarone was born in Providence and ordained as a priest in 1978. He has served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, in Providence; St. Clement Church, in Warwick; St. Paul Church, in Cranston; and St. Ann Church, in Providence; and has been assistant pastor at St. Mary since 1990.
"He was a very well-respected priest in the parish," Burroughs said.
William Halpin, spokesman for the Diocese of Providence, said yesterday that St. Mary parishioners were just learning of Father Azzarone's arrest and that it was too early to gauge parish reaction. "The parish is probably finding out about this through the news media," Halpin said.
He said the church's pastor, the Rev. Alfred C. Lonardo, will make a statement to parishioners at Masses on Sunday.
Investigators are asking anyone with information on the case to contact Cranston police at 942-2211.
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