Congregation applauds priest threatened over predecessor's abuse

A parish priest in Northern Ireland has received threats telling him to 'get out of town' following publicity about a separate priest in the parish who died in 2002 and has recently been revealed as a paedophile.

Fr Charles Byrne made the revelations to parishioners during mass yesterday in the Clonduff parish in the village of Hilltown, County Down.


Fr Byrne, who reportedly received two rounds of applause when he spoke to the congregation, did not reveal the exact contents of the letter that he received but said they were 'abusive'.

The letter referred to a recent sexual abuse scandal in the Dromore diocese, in which the late Fr Malachy Finnegan has been accused of sexual abuse by 12 people.

Earlier this month, the bishop of Dromore, Dr John McAreavey, resigned over his handling of the scandal.

Fr Byrne said that he had passed the letter on to his solicitor, who has reported the threats to the police.

The Belfast Telegraph reported that victims say the parochial house in Hilltown was used as a place for the abuse of children by Finnegan, who was at one time the parish priest, and that it is understood that clerics no longer use the property for overnight stays.

Dr McAreavey officiated at Fr Finnegan's requiem mass in early 2002, despite reportedly being aware of serious abuse allegations.

Dr McAreavey, who was appointed bishop of the diocese of Dromore in 1999, said his predecessor's failure to make a public statement on Finnegan's abuse was a 'gross error' and admitted that when he took up the position he allowed those arrangements to stand.

There is no suggestion that Fr Byrne – described as a 'decent, simple, country parish priest' by one source who knows him – is in any way involved in the scandal.

Christian Today has attempted to contact Fr Byrne.