The Los Angeles district attorney’s office filed felony charges Friday against a fugitive Catholic priest, alleging that he sexually molested a teen-age boy who worked as a receptionist at a Glendale church.
Father Tilak Jayawardene, 47, was charged with six counts of oral copulation in connection with incidents that allegedly occurred between Oct. 23 and Nov. 5, said district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.
Five of the incidents are alleged to have occurred in the priest’s bedroom at the Glendale Incarnation Church rectory, while the sixth allegedly took place at the 17-year-old youth’s home, she said.
Gibbons said Jayawardene, a native of Sri Lanka, may have fled to that country. She said authorities were investigating possible extradition proceedings to force his return.
“We can’t confirm that he has fled the country,” said Glendale Police Sgt. Kim Anderson, who handled the investigation. But Anderson added, “He is well aware that he is wanted by the police.”
She said police sought to question the priest after the allegations were made by the teen-ager.
Anderson said the victim was brought to the department in December to report the incidents. She declined to say who brought the youth to the authorities.
Shortly thereafter, Glendale police received a call from an attorney who said he was in contact with the priest. Anderson said she told the attorney, whom she declined to identify, that police had probable cause for an arrest and she urged Jayawardene to surrender.
Because he has failed to do so, the district attorney’s office has recommended that bail be set at $250,000 if the priest is arrested.
Jayawardene had no criminal record in the United States and police have received no other local reports of sexual misconduct by the priest, Anderson said.
The investigator said Jayawardene was ordained in Sri Lanka but had been in the United States for about 10 years.
In August, 1987, he became associate pastor at Incarnation Church, which serves about 2,100 families, said Msgr. Eugene Frilot, pastor at the church. “I think he was very well-liked,” Frilot said.
The pastor said he “had heard rumbles” regarding an investigation concerning Jayawardene but was surprised to learn Friday that charges had been filed.
“This is shocking,” he said. “I think any time a serious accusation is made against anyone in our parish, especially a priest, it’s very hurtful to all of us.”
Frilot said Jayawardene left the parish in early December, saying he had been recalled by his bishop overseas. “I haven’t heard anything,” Frilot said. “He hasn’t contacted me. I assume he went home to Sri Lanka.”
Father Gregory Coiro, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said Jayawardene was considered a guest priest and remained under the authority of church officials in his native land.
“My understanding is that when he learned that these accusations were going to be filed against him, he opted to leave the country,” Coiro said. “Because he did not belong to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, there was nothing the archdiocese could do to make him stay.”
Coiro said Catholic officials informed Jayawardene’s superiors in Sri Lanka about the allegations in December.