A Cape Cod-based priest who previously led masses at the Good Shepherd Parish in Vineyard Haven fled to his native Brazil this week after allegations surfaced that he sexually abused a minor in Connecticut.
The Catholic Diocese of Fall River, under the leadership of Bishop George W. Coleman, last week placed Father José Afonso Lima, 46, on temporary leave after learning that Connecticut authorities received an allegation against him of sexual abuse of a minor. Mr. Lima is a Brazilian priest who has been ministering on Cape Cod.
John Kearns, a spokesman for the Diocese of Fall River, said there have been no allegations of abuse against Reverend Lima on either Cape Cod or the Vineyard.
Reverend Lima was part of a mission of priests based in Bridgeport, Conn., who came to the United States to minister to Brazilians living in this country. He is a U.S. citizen who has worked on Cape Cod since 1998, Mr. Kearns said. Although he worked at the Good Shepherd Parish for several years, he has not worked on the Vineyard for a number of years, Mr. Kearns said.
Reverend Lima was reportedly asked by church officials to leave his housing last Thursday at St. Pius in the Tenth Parish in Bridgeport and to go to Danbury, Conn., and remain there under church supervision until the allegations were resolved. Church officials later called Bridgeport police after learning the reverend had reportedly fled the country and returned to his native Brazil.
Mr. Kearns said a letter from Bishop Coleman was read to the mostly Brazilian congregation during Mass on the Vineyard on Friday which explained the allegations against Reverend Lima and his subsequent departure from the country.
“I am deeply troubled by this matter and understand how devastating the announcement of it is to the Brazilian community. I have asked that counselors be present at this weekend’s Masses for the Brazilian community in the Diocese to offer whatever support they can . . . I wish to assure all of you of my prayers at this difficult time,” Bishop Coleman said in the letter.
Reverend Lima has denied the allegation. Diocesan policy and the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People require that any accused priest be removed from ministry until the matter is resolved.
Bishop Coleman encourages anyone who might have information help to contact the Connecticut Department of Children and Families at 1-800-842-2288, or locally to call Arlene McNamee of the Office of Child Protection of Catholic Social Services at 508-674-4681.