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Retired Minnesota Catholic priest removed from ministry

DULUTH, Minn. – A retired Catholic priest who served much of his career in the Northland has been removed from ministry after an accusation of child sexual abuse more than a generation ago.

The Diocese of Duluth announced Sunday that the Rev. Cornelius Kelleher “has recently been credibly accused in the sexual abuse of a minor female during his time as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Chisholm from 1975 to 1986.”

A statement from the diocese said that when the accusation came to light, Kelleher was immediately removed from public ministry and has been stripped of his abilities to function as a priest in retirement.

Kelleher, 81, retired on July 12, 2012, after working since 1956 as a priest at the following parishes: St. James, Duluth; St. Joseph, Crosby; Holy Family, Eveleth; St. Mary, Cook; St. Bridget, Greaney; St. Benedict, Duluth; St. Joseph, Gnesen; St. Joseph, Lakewood; St. Joseph, Chisholm; St. Andrew, Brainerd; St. Patrick, Hinckley; and St. Joseph, Beroun.

Diocese spokesman Kyle Eller said a letter from Bishop Paul Sirba was sent over the weekend to every parish where Kelleher served, before the church issued a news release.

“The primary reason we reach out is to make sure that if anyone else was hurt that they make it known,” Eller said.

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