A Roman Catholic priest on P.E.I. has been removed from his duties over an allegation of abuse stemming from his time serving in Newfoundland and Labrador.
'I did not inquire [into] the nature of the allegations.' —Bishop Richard Grecco
Rev. George Smith was working at St. Malachy's Church in Kinkora, P.E.I.
Bishop Richard Grecco told CBC News on Tuesday that on May 14 he received a call from the diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador informing him that an allegation of abuse had been received about Smith.
Smith served in Deer Lake, N.L., from 1986-91 and went to P.E.I. in 1994.
"I did not inquire [into] the nature of the allegations because the protocol and the procedure is quite clear. As soon as an allegation is made, we have to move this person from his work," said Grecco.
"Within 24 hours I had written a letter to Father George telling him about this. That Sunday afternoon that letter was delivered to him. The allegation obviously is from many years ago. The allegation originates in and pertains to the diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador, not to the diocese of Charlottetown."
Grecco said he was told Smith was quite distraught about the allegation, but he understood that once a complaint of abuse is made a priest must leave the parish. He said he was praying the allegation was not true.
"Everybody in their life has experienced darkness and discouragement. Of course, I feel discouraged. These are dark times," Grecco said.
Grecco said that as bishop he is shocked, sad and heartbroken about the news. He does not know if the police are involved at this point.
Parishioners were given the news Sunday. Ramona Roberts was in St. Malachy's Church when the bishop's letter was read out.
"Some were brought to tears, honestly, because it was that much of a shock. It was the total opposite of anything you would have anticipated hearing in a Sunday mass," she said.
Roberts said many parishioners had been hoping Smith would be made the parish's permanent priest.
Smith is now visiting friends out of province. Several retired priests will be working in the parish until a new priest is appointed next week.