Diocese Apologizes over Rovira's Involvement in Mass

Associated Press, carried in Ft. Worth Star Telegram
March 16, 2005

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - The Vatican is reviewing the case of a former priest in the Brownsville diocese to determine if he should be defrocked, a spokesman for the diocese said Wednesday.

Monsignor Ivan Rovira took a post at a Catholic university in Mexico after Brownsville Bishop Raymundo Pena removed him from the ministry under the one-strike-and-you're out rule, which permanently bars priests confirmed to have sexually abused a minor.

"We did discover evidence that these allegations were substantiated," the Rev. Heberto M. Diaz Jr. said Wednesday at a news conference. "So then he was removed from ministry immediately."

He said Rovira's case was sent to the Vatican for consideration of whether he should be defrocked. Rovira could also petition the Vatican to become a layperson, The Brownsville Herald reported in its Thursday editions.

The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday that Rovira was among priests celebrating Mass last month as the new bishop was installed in Matamoros, Mexico.

"He was vested as priest, celebrating Mass and that is where the problem was," Diaz said Wednesday in Brownsville. "The Diocese of Brownsville is profoundly sorry for the pain it has caused them (Rovira's accusers) and their families."

Diaz said the diocese would do everything it could to see that Rovira does not celebrate Mass again.

Pena saw Rovira at the installation ceremony and notified Matamoros diocese officials that he could not celebrate Mass. Diaz blamed February's breach on miscommunication.

Rovira issued a statement apologizing for celebrating the Mass.

"Wrapped up in the emotion of the arrival of a new bishop, I celebrated at his installation in Matamoros. Often we do things that may offend people, and for that I apologize," he wrote.

There have been no criminal charges or civil litigation involving the priest and the abuse, which reportedly occurred about 24 years ago. Diaz said the statute of limitations for criminal charges had expired.

Diaz said seven cases involving accusations against Rio Grande Valley priests have been sent to the Vatican since the diocese began in the 1960s.


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