The archbishop of Moncton has told parishioners at Ste Therese d'Avila, in the small village of Cap Pelé, that he believes the men who have come forward alleging that a deceased priest abused them.

Archbishop André  Richard spoke during Sunday mass. He went on to praise the men for speaking out about the abuse, which they say happened when Father Camille Léger was a priest in the village, from 1957 to 1980.

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The archbishop of Moncton believes the sex abuse allegations against Father Camille Léger. (CBC)

Léger died in 1990 and was never charged – his accusers came forward after his death.

Archbishop Richard went further, apologizing for what happened to the men, personally and on behalf of the church.

He asked for forgiveness from all the victims and promised to work with the community to heal the rift that has occurred.

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Archbishop André Richard apologized to parishioners Sunday. (CBC)

The allegations have arisen now because the village's arena, Père-Camille-Léger Aréna, is named after Léger. Several people in Cap-Pelé allege that he abused children in the community.

Until last week, he was widely considered a pillar of the community, who was involved with youth through hockey and the Boy Scouts.

Archbishop André  Richard, a native New Brunswicker, has been archbishop of Moncton since 2002.

Community divided

The issue of changing the name of Aréna Père-Camille-Léger to Aréna de Cap-Pelé left the community divided last week.

Coun. Norbet Gaudet, who says he was one of Léger’s victims, is one of the people calling for the name change.

Gaudet claims he was 13 years old when Léger started abusing him.

Gaudet claims he’s met dozens of men over the years who say they were also assaulted by the former priest of the Ste Therese d'Avila Roman Catholic parish.

The reaction of area residents on Thursday was mixed.

A plebiscite on whether to change the arena's name will be held during the May 14 municipal election. It must receive a vote of 60% or more to pass.