MOSES LAKE - A visiting priest from Mexico, who died in the 1980s, is believed to have abused four boys, ages 7-13, in the Moses Lake Catholic parish in the early 1970s.
The Yakima Diocese is now asking possible victims to come forward and report the abuse by calling the diocese's confidential abuse hotline at 1-888-276-4490, according to a statement issued Monday by the diocese.
The accused priest is the late Rev. Hilario Ramirez. He stayed with at least two families when visiting Moses Lake in the early 1970s and allegedly abused the four children. Two of those have since died.
Ramirez was originally invited to Our Lady of Fatima parish in Moses Lake by a parishioner who met him in Dilley, Texas. At the time, Ramirez was a guest priest in Texas and the parishioner believed Ramirez' ministry could be of use in Moses Lake.
Years later, a surviving victim from Texas gave the diocese information about Ramirez and the abuse. Another victim was found by the diocese in Washington state during its investigation. Counseling was made available to both victims.
"We thank the victims for their willingness to share these difficult matters, and we encourage any others who may have been victimized by Father Ramirez to come forward," Yakima Bishop Joseph J. Tyson states.
Monsignor Robert M. Siler, of the Yakima Diocese, said church officials heard Ramirez was from Mexico City, but weren't able to confirm that upon contacting church staff in Mexico. It is possible Ramirez was from another diocese in Mexico or a religious order, Siler said.
"We haven't been able to pin that down yet," Siler told the Columbia Basin Herald.
During the weekend, he told Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Moses Lake about the allegations. They prayed for the reported victims and all victims of abuse.
Grant County civil authorities were told about Ramirez many months ago.