Madam, - As a Catholic clergyman with 25 years' pastoral service in Northern Ireland, I am appalled beyond words by the allegation that a Catholic priest was involved in the bombing of the village of Claudy, Co Derry in 1972.

Just as we are struggling to come to terms with the fact that hundreds of priests worldwide have sexually abused innocent little children, we now have to come to terms with the notion of a parish priest murdering six innocent adults and three even more innocent children in an Ulster parish.

A priest is called to be the shepherd of the sheep. Indeed, he is called to rescue the motherless lambs and carry them to safety upon his compassionate shoulders. What a hypocritical horror, what a mind-boggling sacrilege, for a priestly disciple of Christ to be a member of the IRA and to be a member of a gang that blew beautiful children to their death.

Father James Chesney has already appeared before the throne of judgment. So have Cardinal William Conway and Secretary of State William Whitelaw - who are alleged to have covered up for Father Chesney. We have no option but to leave their fate in the hands of divine justice.

But those of us who still live have compelling responsibilities:

1. The Police Service of Northern Ireland must complete a thorough investigation and prosecute anyone, clerical or lay, still living who had anything to do with the bombing or its covering up.

2. The Roman Catholic Hierarchy of Ireland must make all the files and information in its possession fully available to all inquiries.

3. The Roman Catholic Hierarchy must approach the survivors and victims in Claudy and in an act of true repentance must ask to be allowed to compensate them in an appropriate way - perhaps by building a community hall, a school or a nursery in memory of the nine victims of terror.

May God Almighty forgive us Christians for all the atrocities we have committed in His name this past 2000 years and may the vulnerable Christ Child, lying in his manger, show us the way to true justice and true peace.

With a heavy heart - Yours, etc.,

PATRICK BUCKLEY, Presiding Bishop, The Oratory Society, Larne, Co Antrim.

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Madam, - The shocking allegations regarding the Claudy bombing raise some pertinent questions. What would nationalist Ireland say if a Protestant minister was so involved with a UVF bombing, and the head of his Church met the Secretary of State and the minister was merely shunted aside?

We in the nationalist community are eager to pursue matters such as Bloody Sunday, collusion, the Stevens enquiry. etc., and that is only right. However, we like to down play the Enniskillens, the Omaghs, the ethnic cleansing of Protestants in Border areas, and the other sins of "our" side.

Surely what is needed is a truth and reconciliation commission, South Africa style, so that all wrong-doings can be laid bare. Only then can there be true peace and healing. - Yours, etc.,