Priest Gives First Mass since Being Reinstated

By Susannah A. Nesmith
Miami Herald
August 25, 2003

The Rev. Alvaro Guichard thanked his Miami Beach parishioners and Catholic Church officials who stood by him during "the bad times," in his first Sunday Mass since being reinstated.

Guichard was suspended for 15 months after two men claimed in civil lawsuits that he and another priest had molested them as children.

Guichard was reinstated Saturday evening after the Miami-Dade state attorney's office informed the Archdiocese of Miamithat it was not going to pursue criminal charges against Guichard, church officials said. A church commission also found "no credibility" to the allegations, according to Guichard's attorney, Manuel Garcia-Linares. The commission recommended that he be reinstated, a press release from the archdiocese said.

Guichard thanked the parishioners who prayed for him while he was on leave, as well as Monsignor William Hennessey, the vicar-general for the Miami archdiocese, who let him stay in his home during the investigation.

"Back in the bad times that I had, with great patience and great kindness he supported me," Guichard said.

He also denied the allegations.

"I have always maintained that I am innocent of the allegations made against me," he told the church.

Guichard and the Rev. Ricardo Castellanos, pastor of San Isidro Church in Pompano Beach, were both placed on leave in May 2002. Castellanos remains suspended.

In the lawsuits, Jose Currais and the family of Miguel Chinchilla, now deceased, claimed both priests molested them in the 1970s.

Ignacio Chinchilla, Miguel's brother, said Sunday he was disappointed that Guichard was reinstated. He said no one from the archdiocese or the state attorney's office interviewed members of his family.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "I question the integrity of the investigation that did not involve the victim's family."

Many of the 50 or so churchgoers politely clapped when Hennessey announced that Guichard had returned Sunday morning. After the service, some said they thought the church should vigorously pursue child molesters, but they worried about false allegations.

"I think they ought to hang those people, totally, if they're guilty; go after them," said Jose Garcia. "But for God's sake, to claim that, for a penny? That's the worst thing you can do."

Currais could not be reached for comment. The lawsuits are still pending. Guichard declined to speak to the press after services Sunday.

"This is a very pastoral day for him, and he wants to be with his parishioners," said church spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta.

Guichard's attorney said he expects a judge to rule that the statute of limitations has run out and dismiss the lawsuits.

"As we're getting down to see what is really behind this, we're finding nothing," he said.


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