Father D'Arcy's delight at Bishop Daly's call on celibacy

Fr Brian D'Arcy Father Brian D'Arcy said Bishop Daly was a man of "great experience"

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One of Ireland's best-known priests has spoken of his delight at the former Bishop of Derry Dr Edward Daly's intervention on the issue of clerical celibacy.

Dr Daly said there needed to be a place in the modern Catholic church for a married priesthood.

He also said many young men who considered joining the priesthood turned away because of the rule.

Father Brian D'Arcy said the bishop was a man of "great experience".

"It is still not looked on as a good thing to say if you are in the Vatican set-up, they don't like you saying it," he said.

"It is one of the issues that everyone is talking about and it is delightful that Bishop Daly has made a statement about it now.

"During his time as a bishop he was very strongly in favour of celibacy and therefore the change of view is obviously after sincere reflection.

"No-one could say Edward Daly was anything but a good church man."

Dr Daly, 77, who was a bishop for almost 20 years, addressed the controversial issue in a new book about his life in the church, A Troubled See.

The former Bishop worked in Derry at the height of the troubles.

A photograph, showing the then priest waving a white handkerchief on Bloody Sunday, has become one of the most enduring images of the troubles.

Speaking on BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, Bishop Daly said allowing clergymen to marry would ease the church's problems.

Bishop Edward Daly The Catholic Church said Bishop Edward Daly was speaking in a personal capacity

"There will always be a place in the church for a celibate priesthood, but there should also be a place for a married priesthood in the church," he said.

"I think priests should have the freedom to marry if they wish. It may create a whole new set of problems but I think it's something that should be considered."

Dr Daly said he found it "heartbreaking" during his term as bishop when priests, or prospective priests, were forced to resign or unable to join the priesthood because of the celibacy rule.

"I'm worried about the decreasing number of priests and the number of older priests. I think it's an issue that needs to be addressed and addressed urgently," he said.

While Dr Daly accepted he might be out of step with current Vatican thinking he said he was "not engaged in a popularity contest".

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said he did not wish to comment on Bishop Daly's remarks.

"Bishop Daly was speaking in a personal capacity," he added.

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