Northern Ireland

New appointments in scandal-hit Diocese of Dromore

Newry Cathedral
Image caption The diocese has been rocked by child abuse allegations at schools and parishes in Newry, County Down

The Catholic Diocese of Dromore has made two senior appointments after posts were left vacant in the wake of child sexual abuse investigations.

It has been without a bishop since Bishop John McAreavey resigned in March amid criticism over celebrating Mass with the paedophile Fr Malachy Finegan.

Fr Anthony Corr has been appointed as vicar general, meaning he can "deputize for the bishop in his absence".

The diocese also appointed a temporary replacement for Canon Francis Brown.

Image caption Canon Francis Brown has denied any wrongdoing and hopes to return to work in the future

Canon Brown is the subject of a police investigation and last month he stepped aside from his role as administrator of Newry Cathedral Parish until the inquiry is complete.

He has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and issued a statement on 20 May which said he expects to return to public ministry when the investigation is over.

In the interim, the diocese has appointed Fr Desmond Loughran, a parish priest of Dromore, as acting administrator of Newry Cathedral Parish.

Fr Feidhlimidh Magennis, a lecturer in St Mary's University College, has been asked to assist in the Parish of Dromore following Fr Loughran's transfer.

The appointments were made by Bishop Philip Boyce, the apostolic administrator of the Dromore and now the most senior cleric in the diocese.

Image copyright DIOCESE OF RAPHOE
Image caption The latest clerical changes were announced by Bishop Philip Boyce

Bishop Boyce was given the stand-in role by Pope Francis in March, following Bishop John McAreavey's resignation.

Bishop McAreavey had been criticised over his dealings with the late Fr Malachy Finegan, who has been accused of a litany of historical child sex abuse.

The allegations date from when Fr Finegan was a parish priest in Hilltown, County Down, and during his time as a teacher in St Colman's College in Newry.

He died in 2002 but the PSNI recently set up a dedicated team to investigate the circumstances of that abuse.

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

However, Bishop Boyce's caretaker appointment also proved to be controversial because, in 2011, he was criticised for his handling of clerical sex abuse allegations when he was Bishop of Raphoe.

'Transition period'

In a statement announcing the latest changes in Dromore, Bishop Boyce said: "The main role of the vicar general is to deputize for the bishop in his absence or incapacity.

"I am delighted to appoint one of the younger clergy, well known for his pastoral dynamism, to this role."

Fr Corr is 55 years old and is originally from Lurgan, County Armagh.

He has worked in several parishes but most recently served as parish priest of Donaghmore and Aghaderg.

The diocesan statement added that Bishop Boyce "will be making a series of changes over the coming months, in line with his mission to support the diocese in this transition period".

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