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Spotlight Report

Chelsea priest denies allegation

He says he was not yet at Natick parish

By Jack Healy, Globe Correspondent, 8/12/2002

CHELSEA - The latest Boston-area priest to face allegations of child sexual abuse said yesterday that he did not molest a child while working at St. Linus Catholic Church in Natick in 1972.

The Rev. Anthony J. Rebeiro, 71, was placed on administrative leave from the Chelsea Soldiers' Home Saturday after accusations surfaced that he sexually abused a child 30 years ago, Boston Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said.

Rebeiro, chaplain at the Chelsea Soldiers' Home and the adjacent Quigley Memorial Hospital, was removed from all assignments as the archdiocese investigates the allegation, Morrissey said. Rebeiro is the 22d archdiocese priest suspended since the clergy sexual abuse scandal broke in January. He will continue receiving a salary and medical benefits.

Morrissey said the allegation was only recently reported to the archdiocese, which decided to investigate it. The archdiocese has notified the soldiers' home and hospital of the allegation and offered counseling to the alleged victim and Rebeiro, Morrissey said.

The archdiocese would not release details of the allegation, but Rebeiro said he is accused of abusing a child at St. Linus in 1972. Rebeiro insisted he did not arrive at St. Linus until 1973. He said he was serving at St. Mary's Church in Newport, R.I., in 1972.

''How can they say I did something wrong if I wasn't there?'' Rebeiro said during a phone interview yesterday from his Natick home. ''There's something being made up. The truth will come out.''

Church officials in Boston and Rhode Island could not confirm Rebeiro's statement.

While Rebeiro remained home yesterday, about 70 parishioners listened to a substitute priest conduct Mass at the Chelsea Soldiers' Home chapel. A handful who lingered after the service said they were shocked by the allegations.

''We're very, very upset because we loved him,'' said one hospital volunteer who declined to give her name. ''I don't believe they should have done that. My hand to God, we loved him.''

Last August, Rebeiro transferred to the Chelsea Soldiers' Home from St. Anthony's Church in Revere, according to Listen, a diocesan newsletter for health care ministers. Rebeiro said he began working at St. Anthony's in 1988.

Before that, Rebeiro said he worked at a number of different parishes after transferring from St. Mary's in Newport to St. Linus in 1973. St. Mary's was the scene of the Sept. 12, 1953, wedding of then-US Senator John F. Kennedy to Jacqueline Bouvier.

''Every place I've been, I've been very well liked,'' Rebeiro said. ''I've gotten calls from my parishioners. They've been standing by me all the way.''

Newspaper accounts show that Rebeiro sometimes crossed paths with local celebrities, both notable and notorious.

He presided over the 1985 marriage of Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie, who now plays for the San Diego Chargers.

In 1995, Rebeiro conducted the funeral for Anthony Pelosi, one of four men killed at the 99 Restaurant in Charlestown in a gangland-style massacre.

''God does not look on our sins,'' Rebeiro told the 150 mourners who gathered for the funeral. ''He looks on our faith.''

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 8/12/2002.
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