Puerto Rican Bishop Cleared By Vatican Of Abuse Charges

The Apostolic Delegation of Puerto Rico announced Friday that the Vatican found no basis for sexual abuse accusations made against a well-known bishop in the U.S. territory.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which takes on such accusations, closed the case against Arecibo Bishop Daniel Fernández, according to the delegation.

Fernández said in a statement that he was satisfied with the decision. He recently announced that he had defrocked six priests accused of sex abuse from his diocese and that the accusations against him were made in revenge.

"I have always maintained that the allegations were false, and I trusted that the truth would prevail," he said.

Agnes Poventud, attorney for the man who had accused Fernández of molesting him when he was a child, rejected the decision. She was quoted by El Nuevo Dia newspaper as saying that Vatican officials never interviewed her client.

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Poventud did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The decision comes as Fernández fights a request from Puerto Rico's justice department to obtain confidential documents related to an ongoing sex abuse probe at his diocese in the north coastal town of Arecibo. The diocese had filed a lawsuit arguing that it should not have to turn over the information because it had already provided sufficient details and wanted to protect the identity of those who made the allegations.

A judge last week struck down the lawsuit and gave the diocese two weeks to hand over the information. In addition, authorities in early March charged one of Arecibo's defrocked priests, Edwin Antonio Mercado Viera, with committing lewd acts.

Puerto Rico's justice department also is investigating three other dioceses facing similar accusations.

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