Emotional bishop speaks of priest

 

The Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, broke down and wept as he informed Mass-goers in Ennis at the weekend that a priest in the diocese had been cleared of indecent assault allegations. Dr Walsh told a packed congregation at Ennis's pro-Cathedral on Saturday evening that the priest, who had taken a voluntary leave of absence on hearing of the allegations some months ago, was now returning to his ministry. It is understood the priest travelled voluntarily to Britain to be interviewed by police in connection with an alleged indecent assault said to have occurred 10 years ago.

This had followed claims by a man, now in his 20s, that an indecent assault had occurred during a counselling session given by the priest while working in London in the 1980s.

As Dr Walsh came towards the end of reading from his statement he broke down as he asked for prayers "for the priest for whom this has been a harrowing experience and for prayers for all of us who are privileged to serve you as priests in this difficult time in the life of our church."

The bishop had earlier told parishioners: "Many of you will be aware that about three months ago a serious allegation was made against a priest who works in this area of the diocese. I cannot name the priest for legal reasons. He at all times claimed he was totally innocent of any wrong-doing."

The bishop said: "the priest and the diocese have fully co-operated with the investigation done by the relevant authorities. It has now been decided by them that there is no charge to be made".

Confirming that the priest was returning to his parish, Dr Walsh said: "As bishop of the diocese I have followed all the necessary regulations and have taken the appropriate professional advice."

He said he was making the statement, which was read out at all Masses in the Ennis parish, "in order to reassure you, the parishioners, that this diocese is totally committed to full co-operation with the civil authorities and to openness and honesty with you, the people, in regard to such matters".

The display of emotion brought applause from the congregation as he concluded his statement. Yesterday Dr Walsh declined to make any further comment.