Pope accepts Derry bishop's resignation


THE POPE has accepted the resignation of the Catholic Bishop of Derry, Séamus Hegarty, who is standing down for health reasons.

Dr Hegarty (71) asked for prayers that the Holy Spirit may guide the selection of the new bishop of Derry. “On a personal level, I would entrust my health to the prayers of the people of the diocese,” he said.

Until an appointment is made, Pope Benedict XVI has asked that the diocesan college of consultors, a group of eight priests who govern the diocese collegially for up to eight days, meet and elect a diocesan administrator.

Dr Hegarty submitted his letter of resignation earlier this month. In a statement, he said he had received a diagnosis of a condition which was “unfortunately, irreversible and progressive”. It meant he was “no longer able to fulfil the role of diocesan bishop”.

Ordained in 1966, Dr Hegarty had been bishop of Raphoe from 1982 to November 1994, when he was installed as bishop of Derry.

In recent years, he has faced questions concerning his handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations, particularly in Raphoe. He said he would welcome a statutory inquiry into the handling of such allegations there.

A report on the handling of such abuse allegations by church authorities in Raphoe has been completed by the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

Such reports by the board have been completed where six Catholic dioceses are concerned.

These may be published only with the assent of the relevant bishop and it is understood this has been forthcoming in the cases of all six.

The reports are expected to be published in coming weeks.