Local Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing minor, Orlando diocese says
A local priest has been removed from his ministry after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor, according to officials from the Diocese of Orlando.
The exact nature of the accusation was not immediately available, but officials said the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, notified the Diocese of Orlando about the allegation against the Rev. David Gillis on Tuesday.
Officials said the allegation has "at least the semblance of truth" and it happened in Pennsylvania.
The victim, who is now an adult, came forward with the allegation recently, according to Carol Brinati, chief operating officer and Chancellor of the Diocese of Orlando.
"These are terrible circumstances that I am talking about right now, but our hope and trust is in God," Brinati said.
Gillis has since been stripped of his priestly faculties and has been removed from his ministry. The accusation is under investigation by authorities in Pennsylvania.
Brinati said Gillis had been in good standing with the Diocese of Orlando since he arrived in 2005 and she was not aware of any abuse allegations against him locally.
He most recently served as parochial administrator of Church of Our Savior in Cocoa Beach. Gillis' photo on the staff page was removed Wednesday.
Since he arrived in the Diocese of Orlando in 2005, he has also served at Resurrection Parish and Santa Fe Catholic High School in Lakeland, St. Ann Parish in DeBary, Father Lopez Catholic School in Daytona Beach and St. Faustina Parish in Clermont.
"The safety and well-being of our vulnerable populations are very important to us. The Diocese of Orlando Safe Environment Policy reflects vital measures to safeguard the children of God. We pray for all victims and their families and for those involved in this situation," officials said in a news release.
Crisis counselors have been made available to children at Church of Our Savior and St. Faustina Parish, where Gillis most recently served. The other churches and schools have also been made aware of the allegations.
"I am sad that we are dealing with this today. I am glad that we have policies in place so that we can continue to provide a safe environment for the people of God," Brinati said.
Brinati said Gillis went through a background check and he was fingerprinted. Officials said his record came back clean.
Brinati said anyone who has experienced abuse or suspects abuse is occurring should report it.
“If you, no matter who you are, if you know that something has occurred that is wrong, then you should report it,” Brinati said.
The Diocese of Orlando removed Gillis' photo from its website and also asked News 6 not to use it.
For those affected by abuse, help is available through the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP. To find the resources available, go to SnapNetwork.org.
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