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Dunkirk parishioners mourn priest who dies after 'brief illness'

On Sunday morning, parishioners met for Mass, where they said say he had a sudden medical emergency.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Rev. Dennis Riter, who was accused of sexual abuse before being cleared and reinstated, died on Saturday "after a brief illness," according to the Diocese of Buffalo.

Father Riter led St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church in Dunkirk, which confirmed his death on its website on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, parishioners met for Mass, where they said he had a sudden medical emergency.

Father Riter was a priest who was accused of sexually abusing children. At least two men said the priest abused them in Buffalo while Riter was serving at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Buffalo.

When the allegations proved to be without merit following an investigation by the Diocese, former Bishop Richard Malone returned him to the ministry.

Father Riter was placed on administrative leave in March of 2018 during the investigation before eventually being reinstated months later, in late June.

"He's leaving a wonderful legacy behind because he blessed so many people," parishioner Sandy Barone said. "And he was always there for you. You could call him anytime, come and see him anytime, he would bring communion to your house."

Another parishioner, Alicia Quagliana, added: "Father Dennis is where we all want to be. It's sad for us because we're left to pick up the pieces."

Funeral services for Father Riter will be held some time later in the week.

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