A Roman Catholic pastor under investigation for sexual misconduct has resigned from the largest church in the San Bernardino Diocese.
Monsignor Peter Luque, 66, announced his decision to parishioners Saturday in a letter read at mass.
“Our parishioners need to heal and progress toward God’s Kingdom without the uncertainty of my return to you,” Luque wrote. “When the matter is closed, I will personally visit with you to bid farewell and publicly discuss my future ministry.”
Luque was placed on administrative leave from St. Edward Catholic Church in April, amid accusations that he sexually abused children while serving at two other churches. No charges have been filed, prosecutors said.
The diocese placed Luque on administrative leave after providing police 22 previously unreleased sexual abuse complaints naming him and 19 other priests.
In a separate letter, Bishop Gerald Barnes, whose diocese covers Riverside and San Bernardino counties, urged the congregation to have compassion for Luque.
“I have accepted his resignation with a heavy heart and I ask that you keep him in your prayers over the coming weeks,” Barnes wrote.
Luque, who remains on administrative leave, was well-respected by parishioners. More than 2,000 people last year attended a Mass celebrating the 40th anniversary of his ordination.
“I just feel sorrowful,” Richard Ornelas, 73, of Corona, said after Mass. “He was a beautiful priest.”
But parishioner Ingrid Elman believes Luque made the right decision to step down.
“We’re praying for him,” she said.
Three new clergymen will be assigned to the 6,700-family parish in July. Until then, an interim pastor will run the parish, diocese officials said.