Family of priest wishes to apologise to runner

The family of the non-practising priest who interrupted the Athens marathon on Sunday wishes to apologise personally to the Brazilian…

The family of the non-practising priest who interrupted the Athens marathon on Sunday wishes to apologise personally to the Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima and to the people of Brazil.

The family said yesterday it was deeply upset, shocked and hurt by the actions of Kerry-born Father Neil Horan (57), which may have cost de Lima, who was leading the race at around the 22-mile mark, a gold medal.

"This man has possibly put his whole life into winning a gold medal. We know how important winning a gold medal is," said Mr Dan Horan, a younger brother of the priest.

The family is going to contact the GAA president, Mr Seán Kelly, to warn him, said Mr Horan, that the All-Ireland Finals could be his brother's next target for getting his message across about the end of the world.

"I'm absolutely appalled, as all my family are, by these events," said Mr Horan, who owns a number of fruit and veg stores and health food stores, in Kerry and west Limerick.

"It was bad enough that he had put his own life in danger at the Silverstone last year [when Father Horan ran out on to the circuit during the British Grand Prix race\], with Formula 1 cars racing around, but to have deprived someone of a gold medal was 'absolutely appalling'," he said.

He was watching the marathon and was "gob-smacked" when he recognised his brother.

"There's absolutely nothing we can do about him. It's bringing a pile of hurt to the family," Mr Horan said.

Father Horan was ordained by Bishop Eamon Casey in June 1973, and his first posting was to the English parish of Bexley in Kent.

Although he has not been formally defrocked, the church had "sacked him" and he was not allowed to practise since 1994, his brother said yesterday.

Mr Horan said his brother, who suffers from depression at times, is surviving on dole payments. He has written a controversial book entitled A Glorious New World.

For the past week Mr Horan was arranging a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Croatia for Father Horan, and was paying for the tickets. He was due to accompany him on the pilgrimage, along with a group from Charleville, in Co Cork, in two weeks' time.

He was in contact with his brother last Wednesday night over passport details, but there was no mention of him going to Athens.

Speaking after the court hearing in Athens yesterday Mr Horan said his brother had got away "scot-free" with a 12-month suspended sentence. "The family were half hoping he would get a jail sentence."

Father Horan believes the end of the world is near, and it is necessary to read the Bible. Over the past 25 years he has been involved in 30 such stunts, including dancing a jig in front of a mosque.

Mr Horan said he feared his brother would consider the Athens intervention a success because of the publicity it got in the US and all over the world.

Last September, after being released from jail for the Silverstone incident, Father Horan told Radio Kerry he did not regret his actions, but would not break the law again.

He said the hand of God protected him and the drivers at Silverstone from harm, and he would have regretted very much if anyone was injured.

He referred to the fact that even the Sun newspaper had printed the words written on his placard: "The Bible is always Right." He had had contact from people as a result.

He said it saddened him that people associated the biblical message with craziness. He also said he had 20 years left as a priest, that he was on sabbatical and not allowed to have a parish.

Among his predictions to local newspapers were that his native Scartaglen on the Kerry-Cork border, and the Sliabh Luachra music for which it is famous, will be guaranteed a place in the post-Armageddon world.