Shields, the Archdiocese's vicar for Hispanic Catholics, is acting as parochial administrator of the ethnically diverse parish while the investigation is ongoing, but he stressed yesterday that Pinero remains the pastor.
"I realize this comes as a shock and is upsetting. . . . There is a great deal of confusion, wondering and speculating," he said. "But I ask you to withhold speculation and judgment. Withhold speculating on questions we don't know the answers to."
As has become de rigueur for those in public crisis, Hughes said that Pinero has gone on a retreat - one of the "spiritual" sort - and he asked the congregation to keep Pinero in their prayers.
Shields called the situation "serious" and said Cardinal Justin Rigali has expressed "his great pastoral concern" over the matter, but he said nothing about the investigation and asked those in the parish not to speculate, especially with the media.
After Mass, one elderly parishioner, who declined to give her name, said Pinero came to her house every Easter and blessed her food.
He also often visited her sick husband in the hospital and brought him Communion and holy oil, she said.
"I have no idea what's going on with him and I don't care," she said. "He's always prayed for me and now I'm praying for him."
Another woman, who also declined to give her name, said she couldn't imagine what the investigation was about.
"He's the greatest priest we've ever had," she said. "I've known him since he was a little kid."
The Brooklyn-born Pinero, 46, moved with his family to Philadelphia when he was 5, according to an online profile.
He attended Roman Catholic High School and spent two years studying liberal arts at Temple before entering St. Charles Borromeo Theological Seminary, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He also claims to be a certified life coach and is involved in a "gourmet candle and fundraising business" called CandleLight4Life.
"I've always had a desire to run my own business and generate extra income on the side," he wrote on the CandleLight4Life website. "Our company tag line is: 'we make scents, you make dollars.' "
There's just one small problem: The Archdiocese does not approve of outside secular employment of priests, according to spokeswoman Donna Farrell.
"If they wish to teach a seminar or a university, that would be permitted, with the permission of the Archdiocese," she said. "Certainly, we have priests who serve in some outside capacities, but not secular positions."
Selling candles wasn't Pinero's only outside position - and he's not trying to hide it.
Of the 12 photos on Pinero's MySpace profile, one is of a pile of $100 bills with the caption: "this could be yours."
The pastor has been involved in several multilevel marketing (MLM) strategies online and he proudly posts his picture on those sites. Some pyramid-schemers veil their ploy as MLMs, but MLMs have a legitimate product to sell, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Among the many MLMs Pinero is connected with is Teamwork Revolution Power Systems, a year-old MLM based in Illinois that sells autoresponders - computer programs that automatically answer e-mail - and online conference time.
When informed by the Daily News of the apparent federal investigation involving Pinero, Teamwork CEO James Al-Oboudi expressed surprise and said he knew of no other affiliates of his company who had been visited by federal authorities.
"Absolutely not. We have no trouble within our organization at all," he said last night. "I hold the company to very high ethical standards."
On the company's testimonials page, Pinero's picture and story are the first to appear.
"It he's got some negative attention to him, I don't want him up there," he said. "He's always seemed like a very helpful person. Other than that, I don't recall anything him ever said sticking out to me or him sending us any red flags."
Pinero did not respond to phone and e-mail messages for comment yesterday, nor did an ICE spokesman.