Simsbury Priest Charged with Sex Assault

A Simsbury priest has been arrested and charged with sexual assault.

Rev. Edward Warnakulasuriya, a priest at St. Bernard's Catholic Church in the Tariffville section of Simsbury, was taken into custody on Thursday and charged with three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, according to police.

They did not release details on the circumstances surrounding the alleged crimes.

Hartford Archbishop, Most Rev. Henry Mansell, appointed Warnakulasuriya administrator of St. Bernard's in August 2010, according to the church's Web site.

Neighbors of the church were surprised to hear that the leader of the parish was arrested by Simsbury Police.

"It comes as a surprise and shock and it's concerning as a parent in the community," Scott Glazier said.

Several parishioners told NBC Connecticut that Father Ed, as he's known, has been gone from the church for at least two weeks. They said they were told the alleged crimes did not involve a member of the church.

Simsbury Deputy First Selectman John Hampton once attended St. Bernard's and his parents still attend church there.

"Obviously, as town officials, when allegations occur like this we pay attention and we're obviously very concerned," Dep. Hampton said.

The Archdiocese released a statement Thursday evening.

"In light of the police investigation and charges, the Archdiocese of Hartford has placed Fr. Edward Warnakulasuriya on administrative leave, which means he cannot perform his duties as a priest, namely the administration of the Sacraments. We will cooperate fully with the investigation."

Warnakulasuriya was released on bond and is scheduled to appear in Enfield Superior Court on Friday.

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