Investigation into Retired Vatican Official Stretches across Ontario

By Cassandra Szklarski
Canadian Press, carried in
February 3, 2006

TORONTO (CP) - The investigation of a retired Vatican official accused of molesting an eastern Ontario altar boy decades ago involves accusers in several other communities where the priest lived, police said Thursday.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Msgr. Bernard Prince, 71, a retired Vatican official accused of assaulting a 12-year-old altar boy in the town of Wilno, Ont., in the late 1960s before he eventually moved to Rome to work for the Vatican. Sgt. Kristine Rae-Chollette said the matter could move to extradition proceedings if Prince continues to ignore an arrest warrant issued after charges were laid last October.

In the meantime, she said investigators were looking into other claims in other parts of Ontario and even in the United States.

"We have (allegations) from different communities," said Rae-Chollette.

"It has become quite extensive, I can't say how many complainants (there are), but the fact is Prince did live in Wilno, Ottawa, Pembroke, Arnprior, Toronto and Kingston as well in the States, too, before he went out of North America. It's quite an extensive investigation."

So far, Prince only faces charges related to an alleged assault at his former cottage in the small southern Ontario town of Wilno.

"We do hope that he comes back to deal with it. Everybody deserves their day in court," Rae-Chollette said.

Rev. Peter Proulx of the Diocese of Pembroke said he knew nothing about the allegations and that the diocese had never received any complaints about Prince.

"I have not received anything official from police, I have not received anything from a lawyer," said Proulx, adding the diocese was willing to co-operate with investigators.

"We will be transparent, we will be co-operative, but I need some facts."

Prince has denied being notified of the allegations but Rae-Chollette insisted he has been told of the charges and the order to return to Canada.

Although the Pembroke diocese keeps a record of its priests' career history, Proulx said a detailed list of Prince's postings was not immediately available.

Prince reportedly worked as a priest at Ontario parishes in Arnprior and Pembroke before taking a posting at the Apostolic Nunciature in Ottawa.

A spokesman for the Canadian Conference of Bishops said Prince also did a stint at their office in Ottawa. And in Toronto, Prince worked for the Canadian office of the Pontifical Mission Society, which promotes Catholicism throughout the world.

A spokesman for Notre Dame University in Indiana said Prince received a master's degree in divinity there in 1976.

A spokesman for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said it is not unusual for priests to move from diocese to diocese, depending on the circumstances at the time and the particular expertise of the priest.

"It's a decision made, most of the time, by the bishop," said Slyvain Salvas.

"It depends on the needs of the diocese, it depends on the politics of the diocese, it can differ from one diocese to another."

In 1991, Prince left for the Vatican after being named secretary-general of the Pontifical Work for the Propagation of Faith. He held the position until 2004, when he retired.

The controversy is just the latest to strike the Catholic Church in Ontario this year.

An 82-year-old retired priest in Chatham faces 42 sexual assault charges including indecent assault, rape, and attempted rape.

The case against Charles Sylvestre of nearby Belle River involves more than 30 alleged victims throughout southwestern Ontario.


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