A Catholic priest was arrested in Kochi on Monday on the charge of sexually abusing a minor girl who later gave birth to a child. Kerala police identified the priest as 48-year-old Robin Vadakkancheril, vicar at the  St Sebastian’s Church in Kottiyoor in Kannur district. He will face charges under the POCSO Act and IPC section 376. From the Syro-Malabar Catholic diocese of Mananthavady, Vadakkancheril had served as director of the Church-run daily Deepika and Jeevan TV before moving to Kottiyoor. He had also worked with a college under the diocese. Police said the victim was a school girl, the daughter of farm hands. Police said the priest raped the girl in his bedroom at the parsonage attached to the church. “There was only one incident of abuse,’’ police said

“The girl gave birth to a child three weeks ago. The newborn was handed over to a private orphanage in Wayanad district. After the case was registered, the baby was handed over to a government-run orphanage in Kannur,’’ police said. On a tip-off from the government-backed Childline service for children in distress, police questioned the girl on Sunday. “Initially, the girl said she was abused by her own father. Later, when we questioned her in detail with the help of policewomen, the girl disclosed the name of Fr Robin,’’ police said.

According to police, her parents did not realise for quite sometime that the girl was pregnant — she attended school regularly, and wore the uniform in a manner that no one noticed she was pregnant. The spokesman of the Mananthavady diocese was not available for comment. Robin Vadakkancheril’s name and photograph had been removed from the website of the diocese. In Kottiyoor, residents said the priest had been at the church until Sunday when he announced that he would be away from the parish until Friday. Incidentally, he used to speak against sexual abuse of children and had even alerted police a few months ago about a sex racket in the region.

“The parents had not filed any complaint but based on a tip off received by the child helpline, we carried out an initial probe and found the report to be true. We have filed a case of rape against the priest. He was absconding but now has been taken into custody,” a police officer said.

According to the police, the girl was raped in May 2016. The police carried out an initial probe over the weekend, based on the tip off.

The newborn has been taken to a special home in Kannur based on the court orders, while the girl, a class 11 student, is with her parents.