Church acknowledges why Belen priest was removed

BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – Fr. Jonas Romea was removed from Our Lady of Belen, where he was a parish priest, by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe two weeks ago on April 25.

However, KRQE News 13 obtained pictures showing Fr. Romea at a church related function in Belen on Thursday, May 4.

Fr. Clement Niggel, pastor at Our Lady of Belen, said he was completely unaware that Fr. Romea attended the event and did so without the permission of the church.

With Romea’s removal on April 25, the Archdiocese’s Communications Office released a statement to  KRQE News 13 that Romea was no longer allowed to perform priestly duties here in New Mexico, but never stated the reason why.

Then on Friday, May 5, once the Archdiocese was made aware of Fr. Romea’s presence in Belen the day before, another statement was released. This time directly from Archbishop John Wester, saying that Fr. Romea had been removed because of prior inflammatory remarks in homilies and a complaint of “boundary violations” against him.

“All I know is what I was told by the Archdiocese was that he was given a new assignment and he was no longer with the church in Belen,” said Lt. Joe Portio with the Belen Police Department.

Belen Police said they received an anonymous tip from an 18-year old woman that Fr. Romea had made remarks to her about the clothes she wore in Facebook pictures and also kissed her on the cheek. Belen Police say the young woman believes Fr. Romea was viewing her Facebook page using a Facebook account with an alias.

KRQE News 13 also uncovered a Facebook page with the name of Jason Bernardo, but features a profile picture of Fr. Romea. Police have not confirmed if the page was created by Romea.

Belen Police say they also received word of more allegations from a woman against Fr. Romea from his time while at St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe.

“Approximately seven years ago, he made several sexual advances toward her and she filed the complaint with the Archdiocese,” said Portio. “But it’s unknown if anything came out of it. She was sure that nothing was done.”

In the Archbishop’s letter, he said the Archdiocese looked into Romea’s file and couldn’t find any past incidents. The letter was read in masses at Our Lady of Belen over the weekend. It also goes on to say if anyone witnessed inappropriate behavior by Fr. Romea to contact the Archdiocese.

Belen Police said it doesn’t look like any crimes were committed in the latest incident related to Our Lady of Belen.

There’s still no word if Romea has gone back to his home country of the Philippines. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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