Priest Returns to Face Sex Assault Charges

By Andrew Seymour
The Ottawa Citizen [Canada]
February 16, 2006

A former Pembroke-area priest, wanted for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old boy, was arrested at Montreal's Trudeau Airport after returning to Canada from Italy to surrender to authorities.

Canada Customs and Border Services agents arrested Msgr. Bernard Prince, 71, after he arrived on a flight from Rome just before 9 p.m. Tuesday.

"He made a decision to leave his home and come here to face these charges," Msgr. Prince's lawyer, Chris Kelly, said yesterday.

An arrest warrant was issued for Msgr. Prince in mid-October for buggery and indecent assault on a male after a man, now in his 50s, alleged to Killaloe OPP last May that he was sexually assaulted in 1969 at a cabin owned by the priest near Wilno, west of Ottawa.

Msgr. Prince, who was secretary general of the Pontifical Work for the Propagation of Faith at the Vatican until his retirement two years ago, has lived in Italy since 1991.

"Many people would have played 'catch me if you can' and he was determined not to play that game," said Mr. Kelly, adding his client had no legal obligation to return to Canada. "A different man would have made a few calls and ended up in Peru. He did the right thing."

Mr. Kelly said Msgr. Prince intended to turn himself in to the OPP in Pembroke, but was detained by customs agents instead. According to Mr. Kelly, Msgr. Prince was waiting for his luggage when he was taken into custody.

"He said he was entering the country to answer to criminal charges when they approached," said Mr. Kelly. "Father Prince was very co-operative in complying with the arrest and waiting for the police to pick him up."

Mr. Kelly said Msgr. Prince had not told the OPP he was intending to turn himself in, out of concern his travel plans would change and he would appear to be avoiding capture.

Msgr. Prince was picked up by OPP detectives yesterday morning and is expected to appear in Pembroke court today for a bail hearing.

Mr. Kelly said he intends to ask for bail, but stressed that Msgr. Prince decided to return to Canada "unconditionally," without any promise that he would be released pending future court appearances.

"There is no reason to keep him in custody at all," said Mr. Kelly, adding Msgr. Prince knows "very little" about the charges against him.

Mr. Kelly said he expects the Crown will ask for Msgr. Prince to turn over his passport to prevent him from leaving Canada.

Police have previously indicated they are investigating other allegations against the priest, but said yesterday no additional charges are expected today.

Msgr. Prince, who is from the Wilno area, was ordained in 1963. His career also included working at 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.


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