Police Hear More Allegations against Priest
'It's turned ... into a very extensive investigation'
By Andrew Seymour
The Ottawa Citizen [Canada]
February 3, 2006
Several more people have contacted police with allegations since retired Pembroke-area priest Bernard Prince was accused of having sex with a 12-year-old boy in the 1960s, OPP said yesterday.
While police have only laid charges against Msgr. Prince in connection with the accusations from one victim, OPP Sgt. Kristine Cholette said additional complainants have come forward since police launched their investigation in May.
Retired from a senior Vatican post in 2004, Msgr. Prince -- described as having been a "personal friend" of Pope John Paul II -- was charged with buggery and indecent assault against a male. The complainant, now an adult, alleges he was assaulted at Msgr. Prince's cottage near Wilno in 1969.
An arrest warrant was issued for Msgr. Prince, who still lives in Rome, in mid-October.
"It's turned from one individual complaint into a very extensive investigation," said Sgt. Cholette. "When we did the investigation, there were separate complaints that came forward."
Sgt. Cholette said investigators hope Msgr. Prince will return to Canada from Italy voluntarily to face the charges and save them from launching extradition proceedings.
"There has been an indication that he will come home on his own. If he doesn't, we may have to seek outside assistance."
While Canada has an extradition treaty with Italy, it does not have one with the Vatican, which, while located in Rome, is an independent Catholic state with its own laws.
Neither Msgr. Prince, who has retained a lawyer in Pembroke, nor his lawyer could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Ordained in 1963, Msgr. Prince left for the Vatican in 1991 and was soon named secretary-general of the Pontifical Work for the Propagation of Faith, a program run by the Catholic Church to promote missionary awareness and provide financial help or subsidies to mission territories.
His career also included parishes in Arnprior and Pembroke before he took a posting at the Apostolic Nunciature in Ottawa. He later worked at the Canadian Conference of Bishops in Ottawa and taught at Saint Paul University on Main Street before moving to Toronto as director of Canada's Pontifical Mission Society.
It was while he was studying in Rome that he met Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II. Their friendship continued until the pope's death last year, with Msgr. Prince often organizing brief meetings with the pope for friends and Wilno residents who travelled to Rome.
Desmond Prince, 70, said earlier this week he didn't think his older brother had any intention of returning to Canada before learning of the charges.
Residents of Wilno, about 130 kilometres west of Ottawa near Barry's Bay, expressed shock, sadness and disbelief yesterday after learning of the charges and arrest warrant for the respected priest.
Describing him as a smart and sophisticated man who spoke up to a dozen different languages, several longtime residents couldn't believe the allegations.
"He really cared for the people," said Bernice Bleskie, 67, who attended Msgr. Prince's ordination at St. Mary's Church in 1963.
Leonard Daly, 59, said he had nothing but respect for Msgr. Prince, whom he has known since he was a young boy. "He was very respected in the community. He did the community a lot of good, as far as I am concerned," said Mr. Daly.
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