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US priest accused of abusing altar boys in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine immigration authorities have arrested an American Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting altar boys in a remote central town in a case one official described as “shocking and appalling.”

The Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, who has been indicted in Ohio for illicit sexual conduct in the Philippines, was arrested in a church in Naval town in the island province of Biliran on Wednesday, Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said Thursday.

An Ohio court had issued a warrant for the arrest of 77-year-old Hendricks, who has been living in the Philippines for 37 years, Sandoval said, adding that the U.S. criminal case stemmed from complaints from the alleged Filipino victims.

There was no immediate reaction from the U.S. Embassy, Philippine Catholic Church officials or Hendricks, who was flown to Manila and detained in an immigration detention center.

The suspect allegedly abused seven victims, who served mostly as altar boys in Naval, in 50 counts of molestation in his residence in a case that’s “both shocking and appalling,” Sandoval said.

“The victims were in his house and the abuses were committed while he was taking a bath with each of them,” Sandoval said by telephone. U.S. authorities provided information about the alleged sexual assaults to the Philippine government, she said.

The victims were reportedly warned they would be locked up in jail if they told anyone about the abuses, she said.

“Several of his victims have come forward with their statements,” Sandoval said.

The U.S. Embassy may revoke Hendrick’s passport to help Philippine authorities immediately deport the priest, the immigration bureau said in a statement.

Hendricks is “a fugitive from justice that poses a risk to public safety and security,” Sandoval said. “We will not allow sexual predators to prey on our children. People like him must be kicked out and banned from the Philippines.”

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