Brownsville Bishop Says He Never Advised Priest to Flee

Associated Press
December 9, 2004

DALLAS, December 9, 2004 — Brownsville Catholic Bishop Raymundo Pena has denied that he ever advised a priest wanted on sexual assault and abuse charges to flee the country.

The Rev. Basil Onyia fled to his native Nigeria in 2001, days before a warrant could be issued for his arrest stemming from allegations that he sexually abused a mentally retarded girl. Onyia claimed in a story in Monday's editions of The Dallas Morning News that the Brownsville bishop advised him to leave the country.

The bishop, who earlier would not confirm or deny Onyia's claim, has since responded on the diocese's Web site.

"Bishop Pena never advised Father Onyia to go back to Nigeria, and we are surprised that Father Onyia is working as a priest there," the statement said.

"It is unfortunate that he did not remain in this country to address the allegations made against him," Pena is quoted saying in the statement.

The Morning News tracked Onyia to Nigeria, where he has worked in parish ministry since disappearing from South Texas in 2001.

Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra charged Onyia but has not tried to extradite him for trial.

Onyia has said he never attacked his teenage accuser — a mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed incest victim. A witness told the newspaper that she saw the priest apologize to the accuser's family and blamed his actions on the devil.


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