February 13, 2006

Diocese dumps cleared priest: Father James vows to fight order; parishioners rally to aid

The Trentonian

JACK KNARR, Staff Writer 02/12/2006

HAMILTON -- Trenton Bishop John F. Smith has withdrawn his support of Father James Selvaraj and instructed the guest priest to return to his home parish in India.

But Father James has vowed to fight and stay.

The shocking news was contained in a letter from Bishop Smith that was read to stunned parishioners at 5 o’clock Mass yesterday at St. Raphael’s Church in Hamilton where the priest has served for the past year.

On Feb. 1, Father Selvaraj had just been cleared by a Mercer County grand jury on allegations he inappropriately touched a little girl last year at church -- touched her hand to guide it as she wrote in Swahili on the blackboard.

And last Wednesday night, 400 parishionersgathered at St. Raphael’s to celebrate Father Selvaraj’s clearance of the criminal charges in a joyful prayer gathering.

At the end, according to parishioner Lou Monticchio, "Father Selvaraj said, ‘St. Raphael’s is my home, and I belong here. I belong with you!’

Posted by kshaw at February 13, 2006 07:52 AM