Priest Tied to Child Sex Case Here Disappears

By Blake Morlock
Tucson Citizen
December 9, 2003

After the Rev. Fernando Manzo, pastor of San Felipe de Jesus Church in Nogales, was placed on administrative leave, he failed to give the Tucson Diocese his location.


A Nogales priest under investigation for child molestation has disappeared.

Tucson police are investigating allegations against the Rev. Fernando Manzo, pastor at San Felipe de Jesus Catholic Church in Nogales, said police spokesman Sgt. Marco Borboa.

"The allegations date back as far as 1980," Borboa said. "They are not allegations that come from his affiliation or association of the church."

Borboa would not explain the allegations further, but they involve at least one incident in Tucson.

It's more bad news for the Tucson Diocese, which in 2002 settled 11 lawsuits alleging sex abuse and faces more than a dozen filed since.

A substitute priest at San Felipe read a letter Sunday from the Most Rev. Gerald Kicanas, head of the Tucson Catholic Diocese, explaining that Manzo was under investigation.

In the statement, Kicanas explained he met with Manzo last week, informed him of the criminal complaint and placed him on administrative leave.

That meant he would have to leave the church where he was staying.

That was the last the diocese heard from Manzo.

"He did not call to give me the location and phone number of where he is staying. At the present time we do not know where he is ... ," Kicanas said. " I pray we will locate him soon."

Saturday, the diocese filed a missing person's report with the Nogales Police Department.

Manzo, 47, is a native of Guadalajara, Mexico. He attended St. John Seminary in Camarillo, Calif., and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Tucson in 1983.

His assignments have all been within the Tucson Diocese:

* From 1983 to 1985 he served at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Yuma.

* He worked at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Somerton between 1986 and 1998.

* He then moved to Tucson where he was at St. Monica Parish until 2001, when he moved to San Felipe. In that assignment, he ministered to more than 600 registered families.


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