Priest welcomed back to parish

 

A Catholic priest wrongly accused of raping a teenager in Kenya and fathering her child was today welcomed back home to his parish.

Father Kevin Reynolds received a standing ovation as he attended Mass in Saint Cuan’s Church, Ahascragh, Co Galway.

RTÉ this week apologised to the cleric, accepting allegations in its Prime Time Investigates programme entitled A Mission to Prey - aired last May - were baseless and without any foundation.

Fr Kevin had been forced to stand down as parish priest and leave his Galway home while investigations were carried out.

At a mass marking his reinstatement, Bishop Christopher Jones, Bishop of Elphin, said all the priests of the diocese were deeply concerned and hurt what he had endured and were delighted to see him back.

“Today we pray that Fr Kevin will continue to enjoy peace of mind and heart as he resumes his ministry among us,” he told the congregation.

“We pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit his family will experience healing in their hearts.

“We pray for the Mill Hill Community and for the people of this parish that together we can all face the future with courage and hope.”

The priest, a Mill Hill Missionary, started defamation proceedings against RTÉ to vindicate his good name and reputation. Two paternity tests later showed the 65-year-old was not the father of the Kenyan woman.

Bishop Jones said he was shocked and saddened as he watched the TV programme, adding Fr Reynolds had responded to the attack on his integrity with great courage, strength and resilience.

“Fr Kevin has carried his cross with great dignity,” continued Bishop Jones.

“He willingly stepped aside from ministry and never expressed anger or impatience of any kind.

“I believe that his own deep faith and spirituality have been his greatest source of courage and consolation through this most dreadful experience of his life.”

The Bishop also used the Mass to remember victims who have suffered through child sexual abuse.

“Occasions such as this are a disservice to the validated experiences of so many,” he added.

“I reiterate the commitment of our diocese to the safeguarding of children.

“With the support of the many trained parish-based lay volunteer and priests, the National office for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, and in partnership with An Garda Siochana and the Health Service Executive, the Diocese of Elphin is committed in its focus and responsibility to protect and value children wherever they are in our Church.”