Jose P. Nickse, 56, Priest in Miami
The Cleric, Accused of Sex Abuse, Was Found Dead While on a Vacation

By Thomas Monnay
Sun-Sentinel [Fort Lauderdale FL]
December 26, 2002

A Miami priest who had been placed on administrative leave following allegations he sexually molested altar boys was found dead Christmas Eve in a hotel room in Nassau, Bahamas, where he was vacationing.

Father Jose P. Nickse, who had been pastor of St. Brendan Catholic Church in Miami for 20 years, was 56. The cause of death was under investigation.

Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami who knew the priest for 25 years, said she last spoke to Father Nickse on Friday. He was in good spirits and very optimistic, she said.

Agosta said she did not know whether there was any suspicion of foul play or suicide in the priest's death. "We are waiting for the opinion on the cause of death," she said late Wednesday.

Agosta said priests from the archdiocese were in the Bahamas on Wednesday, working with authorities there and the U.S. Embassy in hopes of repatriating Father Nickse's body to South Florida.

"We are stunned with the news of the sudden death of Father Jose Nickse," Agosta said. "Our prayers are with Father Nickse, his family and his beloved parishioners of St. Brendan Catholic Church."

The Cuban-born priest led the televised Mass marking the archdiocese's 30th anniversary in 1988. He was known as an advocate for Cuban and Haitian refugee causes, including the Operation Guardian Angels relief effort in 1994.

The archdiocese placed him on administrative leave June 4 because of the publicity created by the sexual allegations made by two former altar boys, now 31 and 36, who claimed he repeatedly molested them.

Father Nickse maintained his innocence.

The archdiocese's decision to place him on leave inspired more than 4,000 parishioners to write letters urging the Roman Catholic Church to reinstate Father Nickse to his pastoral position.

The claims filed by Richard Fiallo and an unnamed "John Doe" were the second and third lawsuits against Father Nickse. In the first, also filed by a "John Doe," a former altar boy sued suspended TV evangelist Rev. Ricardo Castellanos and Father Nickse, claiming they both molested him. The boy complained about Father Nickse to other priests on several occasions, but no action was taken, his suit says.

St. Brendan's and the Miami Archdiocese also are defendants in the civil lawsuits.

Fiallo's suit claims that Father Nickse fondled him when he was 12 and a student at St. Brendan's elementary school, after they finished playing racquetball at the priest's club and in Father Nickse's car while they were returning from a funeral. Fiallo claims in his suit that the abuse took place in the early 1980s.

The suit by the other unnamed plaintiff, who claimed the alleged abuse occurred when he was 16 through 18, said Father Nickse fondled him under a dinner table and several times in the rectory.


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