New York, Jan 8: A 47-year-old Indian priest has been arrested in the US state of Florida on charges of possessing child pornography, with authorities saying he asked a 14-year old boy to help him delete about 40 pornographic images of young boys from his phone.
Jose Palimattom, a visiting priest from India, was arrested on Monday on charges of possession of pornography and distributing it to a minor. He is being held at the Palm Beach County Jail in lieu of USD 10,000 bail.
Palimottom is a priest of the Franciscan Province of St Thomas the Apostle in India and began serving a two-year residency in December 2014 at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Palm Beach, a parish of the Diocese of Palm Beach.
The priest has allegedly told authorities that he had been reprimanded at his church in India for being "involved with a minor male," but the incident was not reported to police.
The head pastor at Holy Name Catholic Church told deputies that when Palimattom joined, he was told to have no contact with minors without another adult present.
The diocese said in a statement that it is "greatly concerned and takes very seriously the charges" against Palimattom. It said when the Diocese learnt about the allegations, it immediately contacted authorities and cooperated in the investigation conducted by the Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office.
The cooperation resulted in the arrest of Palimattom. The diocese said it undertakes a thorough screening of visiting priests before granting them faculties to minister or celebrate sacraments within its diocese.
As part of its due diligence, the diocese had completed a background screening which also included a screening in India, and received a Certificate of Aptitude from the Minister Provincial in India. During this background process, no prior misconduct was revealed.
It said the allegation is being taken very seriously and expressed sincere regret to the family involved and those hurt by "this regrettable matter".
Palm Beach County Sheriff's officials said Palimattom allegedly showed a 14-year-old boy child pornography on his cell phone after service in the Church on Sunday.
According to the arrest report, Palimattom asked the boy's help in deleting the files from his phone. The boy found about 40 pornographic images of young boys between the ages of 10 and 18 on Palimattom's phone.
He gave the phone back to Palimattom and immediately told a friend, who told him to tell another staff member at the church. The boy's father called deputies after the family returned home from church service, a report in the Sun Sentinel said.
According to the report, Palimattom also sent the boy a Facebook message later that night that said, "Goodnight, sweet dreams."
Palimattom told deputies Monday that he specifically asked the boy to help him remove the pornography from his phone.
He said he knew what the boy had seen was inappropriate and he had "already asked for forgiveness during confession," according to the report.