Northern Ireland

Bishop John McAreavey resigns after criticism

Bishop John McAreavey Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Dr John McAreavey confirmed the move in a statement from his solicitors

The Bishop of Dromore has resigned amid controversy over celebrating Mass alongside a priest he knew was a paedophile.

The move was confirmed by his solicitor, Arthur J Downey and Company.

Bishop John McAreavey acknowledged that media reports had "disturbed and upset many people in the diocese and further afield".

The late Fr Malachy Finnegan has been accused of sexual abuse by 12 people.

There have been calls for the bishop to resign, with parishioners telling the BBC they would no longer set foot in the parochial house in Hilltown , County Down.

Fr Finnegan, a teacher at St Colman's College in Newry from 1967 to 1976 and president of the school from 1976 to 1987, is also accused of a catalogue of physical and emotional abuse against pupils.

On Friday, the PSNI said its public protection branch has set up a dedicated team to investigate complaints of clerical and institutional abuse involving Malachy Finnegan.

In a statement, it added that there is a legal obligation for anyone who has information about a serious crime to bring it to the attention of the police.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Fr Finnegan taught at St Colman's College in Newry and was later its president

Malachy Finnegan died in 2002 and Bishop McAreavey has previously apologised for conducting his funeral Mass.

Details of the abuse claims against Fr Finnegan were revealed in a BBC Spotlight investigation in February.

Fr Finnegan was never prosecuted for sexual abuse, but allegations against him were reviewed by the National Board for Safeguarding Children - a clerical abuse watchdog set up by the Catholic Church.

Sean Faloon who was first abused by Fr Malachy Finnegan when he was a ten-year-old altar boy gave his reaction to the Bishops resignation on Thursday night:

"As soon as I heard the news I could feel a lot of weight leaving my shoulders, my legs went light and then filled with energy, I was really, really relieved.

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Media captionSean Faloon said he was relieved to hear of Bishop McAreavey's resignation

"But it's just the first stepping stone. I think it's the right decision for once by Bishop McAreavey to step down.

"It's not only me who doesn't trust what he's been doing for the Diocese. The whole Diocese now has a large amount of distrust."

Mr Faloon also said that he was not happy with the way the Diocese of Dromore interpreted a review of Fr Finnegan's case by the Catholic Church's watchdog group set up to look into clerical abuse.

"When you are a survivor of serious sexual abuse like myself you never get full closure however the closer you get to that door closing helps," he said.

"I hope we can get as close to closure as soon as possible."

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said it was the Diocese of Down and Connor that had interpreted the review of Fr Finnegan's case.

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