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William Kokesch is shown in this undated police handout photo. A Montreal deacon has been accused of producing and distributing child pornography a day after police say they seized 2,000 images from his home. (Police handout/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
William Kokesch is shown in this undated police handout photo. A Montreal deacon has been accused of producing and distributing child pornography a day after police say they seized 2,000 images from his home. (Police handout/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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Roman Catholic deacon faces child porn charges Add to ...

A once-prominent spokesman for Roman Catholic bishops in Canada who helped organize World Youth Day in Toronto is being accused of producing and distributing child pornography.

William Kokesch, a deacon at a church in the Montreal suburb of Beaconsfield who served as communications director for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be in Montreal court Monday to face the charges.

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Montreal police say they searched Mr. Kokesch’s home acting on a complaint from a citizen and found some 2,000 pornographic images and messages left on Internet forums.

A police spokesman would not add any details about how the material was produced or whether any victims were related to the 65-year-old’s church work.

Mr. Kokesch, who worked in radio and television in Montreal in the 1980s, is a well-known figure in Montreal’s West Island, where he served as deacon at the St-Edmund of Canterbury church.

The news stunned civic leaders and churchgoers.

Bob Benedetti, the former mayor of Beaconsfield who has known Mr. Kokesch for 30 years, says the deacon is married with five grown children and was “a nice guy.”

When Mr. Benedetti was mayor, from 2005 to 2009, the two men met frequently at events and would often have lunch.

“He was a very popular figure, a very big leadership figure in the Catholic community, which is huge in Beaconsfield,” Mr. Benedetti said.

The Archdiocese of Montreal released a statement saying it has relieved Mr. Kokesch of all duties.

“The diocese is profoundly upset. Child pornography is an affront to human dignity, and our first concern rests with those who are its victims,” the statement said.

Mr. Kokesch was front-and-centre for the Catholic bishops on a number of burning issues in the early 2000s.

As the bishops debated how to handle sexual-abuse allegations in 2002, Mr. Kokesch was quoted in newspapers and television reports saying how reconciliation and healing take time.

He also boasted that the Canadian bishops adopted a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse 10 years before their American counterparts.

Mr. Kokesch organized the Canadian delegation to World Youth Day celebrations in Germany in 2005, and was quoted in The Globe and Mail about the importance of harnessing youthful energy in the wake of the 2002 event in Toronto.

News of the arrest came just before victims of church sexual abuse held a protest outside a Montreal church Sunday to call on the faithful to hold back on donations to collection trays during midnight mass until the church settles outstanding claims from abuse victims.

The protesters were supporters of 64 plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against a church-run school for the deaf who say they were abused over decades.

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