The Rev. Francis Pucci
Divine Redeemer Chaplain

By Joe Smydo
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
April 7, 2002

The Rev. Francis Pucci, removed as a parish priest 14 years ago amid accusations that he made inappropriate advances toward an altar boy and who most recently held a cloistered position ministering to nuns, died Friday.

Father Pucci, for the past three years chaplain for the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer in Elizabeth Township, died in Jefferson Regional Medical Center. He was 70.

The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, did not know the cause of Father Pucci's death but said he had severe kidney problems.

After his ordination in 1957, Father Pucci held positions at a number of parishes and Catholic schools in the diocese. That ministry ended in September 1987, when he was suspended as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Washington, Pa.

In November 1988, Father Pucci was charged with sexually abusing an altar boy. Two other priests also had been charged with abusing that altar boy and a second one. The boys reported the incidents to police.

Father Pucci was accused of fondling one of the boys at the SS. Mary and Ann parish house in Marianna, Washington County, during the summer of 1986 when one of the other priests was pastor there.

He also was charged with conspiracy for allowing the Rev. Richard Zula to have sexual activity with one of the boys at the Our Lady of Lourdes parish house in Burgettstown, Washington County, in 1986. At the time, Father Pucci was pastor there.

The charges against Father Pucci were dropped after officials determined the statute of limitations had expired. But Lengwin said FatherPucci never again worked as a parish priest. Zula and the third priest, the Rev. Robert Wolk, were sent to prison.

Early in his tenure, against the advice of his lawyers, Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl met with the men who made the allegations against Pucci, Zula and Wolk.

Wuerl told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month that he was moved by the experience and still remembers it vividly. The men's story shaped his zero-tolerance policy toward priests suspected of child abuse.

Visitation for Father Pucci will be at the Divine Redeemer Motherhouse, 999 Rock Run Road, Elizabeth Township, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today. Wuerl is scheduled to celebrate the funeral Mass at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Interment will be in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Carroll, Washington County.


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