SAN JOSE (Reuters) - A Roman Catholic priest charged with raping a 12-year-old boy in Costa Rica in 2003 has been detained by Mexican authorities, a Costa Rican official said on Monday, just weeks before a statute of limitations would expire in the case.
Mauricio Viquez is one of three priests in the country who have been accused of child abuse, one of the latest cases to damage the church’s credibility. Viquez was expelled from the church in February following the scandal.
Viquez had fled to Panama in January, the registry of Costa Rica’s migration office shows, and later to Mexico.
Records from the Costa Rican attorney general’s office show a Costa Rican judge issued an international arrest warrant for the 55-year-old in February.
Mexico’s embassy in Costa Rica said in a statement the former priest had been detained on Saturday in the northern city of Monterrey.
Viquez and the Vatican could not immediately be reached for comment.
Gabriela Alfaro, head of the Costa Rican attorney general’s gender department, said alleged victims had presented a total of four complaints against Viquez, all of which date back to 2003 or before.
Rodolfo Alvarado, a lawyer for the alleged victim whose complaint led to Viquez’s detention in Mexico, said the time limit in his case expires in September under Costa Rican law, when 10 years have passed since the alleged victim turned 18 years.
Alfaro said the statute of limitations would expire later in the three other complaints against Viquez.
The Archdiocese of San Jose said in a statement that Viquez would “have to answer before the corresponding institutions for the actions he is accused of” and that it would cooperate with civil authorities.
Following accusations that three of its priests sexually abused minors, the Roman Catholic Church in Costa Rica in March asked for forgiveness and said that “due attention has not always been given to these crimes, nor the victims or their families.”
Alvarado said that the detention should “send a clear message” that there would be no immunity for such crimes.
Reporting by Álvaro Murillo; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher