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  Priest Resigns from Corona Parish: Investigation: No Charges Have Been Filed against Him over Accusations of Sex Abuse

By Michael Fisher
Press Enterprise [Riverside CA]
March 2, 2003

CORONA

Monsignor Peter Luque resigned Saturday as pastor of St. Edward Catholic Church in Corona, 10 months after he was placed on administrative leave over allegations of sexual misconduct.

In a letter read Saturday at Mass, the priest explained that he was leaving as leader of the diocese's largest church because of the prolonged investigation by authorities into allegations against him. Luque is accused of sexually abusing children in Colton and San Bernardino, but no charges have been filed, prosecutors say. "Our parishioners need to heal and progress toward God's Kingdom without the uncertainty of my return to you," wrote Luque, 66.

"When the matter is closed, I will personally visit with you to bid farewell and publicly discuss my future ministry."

Bishop Gerald Barnes, who leads the Diocese of San Bernardino, expressed sympathy for the St. Edward congregation in a separate letter read Saturday.

"After much prayer to the Lord, I have accepted his resignation with a heavy heart and I ask that you keep him in your prayers over the coming weeks," wrote Barnes, whose diocese encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Luque remains on administrative leave.

Parishioners described the priest as caring, witty and understanding of the needs of the Latino Catholic community. St.

Edward hosted a concert last year to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Luque's ordination, and more than 2,000 attended a Mass in his honor.

"I just feel sorrowful," Richard Ornelas, 73, of Corona, said after Saturday's Mass.

"He was a beautiful priest," the seven-year church member added The resignation confirmed parishioners' suspicions that Luque might not be coming back, said Marlon Calimlim of Corona, a 13-year-member of the church.

"It's been taking a while, this investigation," he said.

Luque is well-loved by the parishioners, he said.

"We really miss him," he said.

When the investigation started, they were shocked, said Ingrid Elman of Corona.

"Today, I would say monsignor made a good decision about the resignation," said Elman, mentioning how people had been gossiping and talking.

"We're praying for him," she added.

Barnes also announced that the administration of St. Edward, the largest church in the million-member diocese, will be handed over to the Operarious del Reino de Cristo. The religious order of diocesan priests will assign three clergymen to the 6,700-family parish on July 1.

An interim pastor who took over for Luque will continue to run the parish until then, diocese officials said.

Luque was placed on administrative leave in April after the diocese gave authorities 22 previously unreleased sexual abuse complaints naming him and 19 other priests. Some of the complaints dated back decades, and in some cases the accused priest was dead, retired or no longer in the area.

Luque remains under investigation, but no charges have been filed, according to San Bernardino County prosecutors.

Born and raised in Colton, Luque was ordained in 1962. After working briefly in San Diego, he was assigned to St. Anthony Catholic Church in San Bernardino and moved to St. Edward in 1964, according to diocese officials.

Four years later, he transferred to Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Riverside, but left in 1969 for San Salvador Catholic Church in Colton. In 1978, he was sent to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Bernardino.

He was named pastor of St. Edward in 1994 to replace a priest who left the previous year after being accused of sexual misconduct with an adult.

At that time, Luque vowed to help mend the parish, saying, "There is nothing I can do about what's happened, except help heal."

 
 

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