(Reuters) – A parish priest in Northern Ireland has been asked to take a period of leave following concerns over child safety, the head of the Irish Church Cardinal Sean Brady said.
A statement published on Sunday on the website of a local archdiocese said that Brady told a congregation in Armagh on Saturday that their priest’s absence from his ministry was to allow an investigation by civil authorities.
“The policy of the Archdiocese of Armagh is that in all matters relating to child safeguarding, the safety and welfare of the child must be our paramount concern,” Brady said.
He said the priest had the right to the presumption of innocence while the investigation was carried out, and also urged anyone who might have been abused by a priest to come forward.
A scandal over pedophilia has convulsed the Catholic Church in the United States and Europe, prompting a papal letter of apology earlier this month.
The letter met with deep disappointment in Ireland, where victims’ groups have called for Brady to resign over his involvement in covering up a case of sexual abuse when he was a priest in 1975.
(reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Dominic Evans)