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Jesuit Priest Accused of Fondling Girl Travels to Ireland : Courts: Father Patrick Kelly served two years at a Tujunga church. He reportedly has promised to return and face charges.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 71-year-old Jesuit priest who served for two years at a Tujunga church fled to his native Ireland after learning he was under investigation for allegedly fondling a 9-year-old girl, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced Monday.

Father Patrick M. Kelly, who was a visiting priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, was charged Monday with misdemeanor counts of child molestation and sexual battery.

Kelly and his Jesuit superior in Ireland have promised that he will return to face the charge, archdiocese spokesman Father Gregory Coiro said.

But Kelly earlier disobeyed his “assurances he would remain” in the area pending the police investigation of the alleged Sept. 26 fondling of the Sunland girl, Coiro said.

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Mike Qualls, spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney’s office, said the girl’s mother told police her daughter “was having some problems with a neighbor who was yelling at her” and the mother “asked the priest to come to the home to counsel the girl.”

When Kelly was alone with the 9-year-old, he allegedly “kissed her repeatedly” and fondled her, Qualls said.

As soon as church officials learned of the allegation, Kelly was removed from the Tujunga church and assigned to a Jesuit residence “for priests only,” Coiro said.

Several weeks ago, however, “the archdiocese learned he had returned to Ireland,” the archdiocese spokesman said.

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Church officials here have since contacted Jesuit authorities in Ireland to recommend that Kelly “not be assigned to any ministry,” Coiro said, and also to ask that they send him back.

“Again the assurances were given,” he said, adding that “the church is cooperating fully with authorities.”

Arraignment is scheduled Jan. 8 in Los Angeles Municipal Court. Each count carries a maximum penalty of a year on jail and $1,000 fine.

Last year, a Catholic priest working as an associate pastor of a Glendale church fled to his native Sri Lanka while under investigation for allegedly molesting a teen-age boy. A police spokesman said Monday that he did not believe the priest in that case returned to face the felony charges that were filed a month after he left the country.

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