A Brick Township priest has been charged with criminal sexual contact against a mother and her minor child, authorities announced Monday afternoon.
Fr. Marukudiyil C. Velan, 64, known to parishioners at Church of the Visitation as "Father Chris," was arrested Saturday by detectives from the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office and Brick Township Police Department.
Earlier that day, township and county detectives interviewed a mother and her children – parishioners at the church – in connection with a report they had filed against Velan after he visited their home in Brick the day before, said Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford. During that visit, Ford said, it is alleged that Velan had "inappropriate contact" with the adult mother as well as her minor child.
Detectives conducted an investigation that concluded Velan befriended the family before his visit to their home. Ford said the investigation established probable cause to make the arrest.
The Diocese of Trenton, in a statement released Monday night, said Velan's full name is Velanmarukudiyil J. Christudas. He is a member of the Camaldolese Congregation of the Order of St. Benedict, and a native of India. Visitation Parish has been his only assignment in the Diocese, spokeswoman Rayanne Bennett said.
"Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. has withdrawn Father Christudas’ faculties to minister in the Diocese of Trenton while the charges against him are being fully investigated and addressed by law enforcement authorities," Bennett said in a statement. "The Bishop has pledged the diocese’s full cooperation with this process."
Velan was charged with a single count of criminal sexual contact as to the adult victim, and one count of criminal sexual contact and one count of endangering the welfare of a child as to the minor victim, Ford said.
His bail was set at $75,000 cash by Superior Court Judge Francis Hodgson. Jail records showed he was being held in the Ocean County Jail Monday.
According to Ford, Velan had been assigned to the church on Mantoloking Road since 2001 as a visiting priest.
The investigation is ongoing, Ford said. Anyone with information regarding the investigation is being asked to contact Detective Anthony Paciulli of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027, or Capt. John Rein of the Brick Township Police Department at 732-262-2135.