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John A. Sarro, priest indicted in sex case, dies after lengthy illness

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Grand jury report has been delayed.

Diocese of Wilmington priest John A. Sarro, under indictment for having sexual intercourse with a minor in the early 1990s, died on Monday at a nursing home, according to diocesan spokesman Robert G. Krebs.

Sarro, 76, had suffered a lengthy illness, according to Krebs. He was among 20 priests in 2006 identified by the diocese as having “admitted, corroborated or otherwise substantiated” allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

The indictment in January by a grand jury in New Castle County accused him of first-degree unlawful sexual intercourse and second-degree unlawful sexual contact in the early 1990s. It accused Sarro of sexually abusing a minor female when he was in ministry at St. Helena’s Parish in Bellefonte.

Diocesan officials in 1997 were first made aware of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor that took place in the 1980s in Papua, New Guinea, where Sarro served as a missionary priest with the Marists, a religious order. He was then removed from ministry, prohibited from celebrating the sacraments in public, and barred from presenting himself as a Catholic priest, according to a January statement from the diocese which also said he had been living in a monitored residence since 2002.

Ordained in 1979, Sarro served at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bear after leaving New Guinea.

Bishop Malooly petitioned the Vatican for Sarro’s laicization, or return to the laity, in 2009, but that was not approved, according to Krebs.

Sarro had been free on bail after his arraignment earlier this year.

Krebs said the Diocese of Wilmington encourages anyone who has been sexually exploited or abused by a priest, brother, sister or lay person employed by the diocese or by a church volunteer to report such abuse to the civil authorities and to the diocesan survivor assistance coordinator, Peggy McLaughlin, at (302) 468-4507. McLaughlin will take the information about the abuse, offer personal counseling, and will ask the survivor’s permission to advise church officials, specifically the vicar general of the diocese, about the complaint.