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Northern Irish bishop resigns over claims he concelebrated Mass with abusive priest

Bishop John McAreavey (Youtube screenshot)

An Irish bishop resigned March 1 after increased criticism over how he dealt with revelations of an abusive priest.

Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore was criticised in a program on BBC Northern Ireland on February 28, after it emerged that he concelebrated an anniversary Mass with a priest he knew had stepped down after being sent for treatment following complaints of abuse.

In a statement from his lawyer released to journalists on March 1, Bishop McAreavey, 69, said: “Following media reports which have disturbed and upset many people in the diocese and further afield, I have decided to resign with immediate effect.”

Twelve people accused the late Fr Malachy Finnegan of sexual abuse. The priest, who taught at St Colman’s College in Newry, Northern Ireland, from 1967 to 1976, is also accused of physical and emotional abuse against students.

While Fr Finnegan was disciplined under his predecessor, Bishop McAreavey had been criticised in recent weeks for not making the cleric’s abuse public.

Fr Finnegan died in 2002, and Bishop McAreavey previously apologised for conducting his funeral Mass.

At parish meetings, some parents have said they would not want Bishop McAreavey to preside at their child’s confirmation ceremony.

The church in Ireland has been rocked by a series of allegations of abuse and subsequent mishandling of abuse claims by those in authority. Bishop McAreavey is the fourth member of the hierarchy to resign in recent years following public criticism of their response to allegations of abuse.