American priest arrested in the Philippines for sexual abuse

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An American priest was arrested in the Philippines Wednesday, amid allegations that he sexually assaulted dozens of boys over a period of decades.

The priest, Fr. Kenneth Hendricks, was arrested Dec. 5 inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Naval, Biliran, a province in the eastern part of the Phillippines. Hendricks, 78, has been in ministry in the region for nearly 40 years.

Hendricks was arrested by a joint task force of local police and U.S. Homeland Security Agents. According to PLN News, a warrant for Hendricks' arrest was issued Nov. 11 by the U.S. District Court of Ohio. Hendricks faces federal charges for engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country, a U.S. crime.

"He did not resist arrest," provincial police director Julius Coyme told The Straits Times.

Coyme told reporters that at least seven complaints about Hendricks have been filed with police. Subsequent investigations revealed that the priest might have had as many as 50 young male victims, The Straits Times reported. Some of his alleged victims reportedly served as sacristans and altar servers for the priest.

A Diocese of Naval directory lists Hendricks as the "priest-in-charge" at the St. Isidore the Worker Mission Chapel.

Toni Cashnelli, a spokesperson for the Order of Friars Minor's Province of St. John the Baptist, headquartered in Cincinnati, told CNA that Hendricks was formerly a Franciscan and a member of the province. Cashnelli said that the priest left the order, but she was unable to specify when he did so, whether he was ordained at the time, or indicate the diocese into which he was subsequently incardinated as a priest.

A 2009 report in the Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph identifies Hendricks as a Franciscan from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

In a Dec. 6 statement, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said that Hendricks "is not, nor has ever been, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati."

"To the best of our knowledge, he was ordained to the priesthood in the Philippines to serve in a diocese there. He has never had any assignment in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati," the statement continued.

In a second statement issued Dec. 6, the archdiocese said that Hendricks "is one of around 75 missionaries from Southwest Ohio who receive some financial support from the Mission Office of the Archdiocese. None of these individuals work for, or take direction from, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati."

Hendricks is alleged to have sexually abused boys as young as 12, and police say that additional allegations continue to be investigated. He is now being held in Manila.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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