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Ex-con priest may be ministering

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.telegram.com/article/20120925/NEWS/109259859/1101/RSS01&source=rss Tuesday, September 25, 2012 Ex-con priest may be ministering Critics press
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 25, 2012
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      http://www.telegram.com/article/20120925/NEWS/109259859/1101/RSS01&source=rss

      Tuesday, September 25, 2012

      Ex-con priest may be ministering
      Critics press Antiochians on status

      By Bronislaus B. Kush TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
      bkush@...

      WORCESTER — The Rev. Charles M. Abdelahad, who took a voluntary leave of
      absence as pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral last year
      after being charged with sexually assaulting a female parishioner, may
      have returned to his ministerial duties.

      Officials with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said
      yesterday that parishioners of St. George’s have told them that they
      have seen Rev. Abdelahad working with choir members and taking part in
      worship services at Antiochian churches in Dedham and Norwood.

      “Why take the risk? That’s the question that Orthodox Church officials
      and members must ask themselves about Father Abdelahad,” said David
      O’Regan, an official with the Worcester chapter of SNAP said at a
      Worcester Trial Court press conference. “Why let him be around
      vulnerable adults in a church setting, given his conviction on charges
      of assault and battery.”

      Rev. Abdelahad was sentenced to serve 90 days of a 2-year jail term at
      the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction after being convicted
      in May of abusing a 45-year-old woman during counseling sessions held
      over a three-year period at the Anna Street church.

      He was specifically found guilty of one count of assault and battery
      with a dangerous weapon (a shod foot) and one count of assault and
      battery for biting her. Eight other charges were dismissed.

      Rev. Abdelahad was scheduled to remain incarcerated until Aug. 28 but
      was released 15 days earlier because of good behavior.

      Mr. O’Regan said the priest was spotted at St. George Antiochian Church
      in Norwood and St. John of Damascus Orthodox Church in Dedham.

      He said Rev. Abdelahad — wearing clerical garb — has been seen singing
      with the choirs and taking part in worship service in an area around the
      altar that is restricted to priests.

      “We think he and church officials are testing the waters,” Mr. O’Regan
      said. “The next thing he’ll be doing is giving homilies and distributing
      Communion.”

      He said SNAP objects to the priest’s return to ministry because the
      victim “deserves some peace of mind” and out of concern about other
      women in the churches who may be around Rev. Abdelahad.

      “For this convicted violent criminal to have any title or position or
      appearance of power and legitimacy is problematic,” Mr. O’Regan said.

      He said offenders take advantage of any role they are given to get close
      to other victims.

      “They use any position or title they have to prove to doubters that
      they’ve been ‘cleared’ or ‘rehabilitated.’ After conviction, they often
      take ‘baby steps’ to win back power and prestige, and sometimes end up
      in even more exalted positions than they already had,” he said.

      SNAP called on church officials to deny the convicted priest any role in
      church life.

      Church officials did not return a phone call seeking comment.

      The events surrounding Rev. Abdelahad has caused a rift at the local
      church between supporters and opponents.
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