Friends and family defend former bishop John McAreavey

Bishop John McAreavey resigned last week
Bishop John McAreavey resigned last week

A Catholic bishop who resigned amid criticism of his handling of child sex abuse allegations against a priest in his diocese has been defended as “caring and very kind”.

Bishop of Dromore Dr John McAreavey resigned last week after it emerged he had said Mass alongside Fr Malachy Finnegan, who has been accused by at least a dozen people of child sex abuse.

The now-deceased Fr Finnegan was employed as a teacher and also the school president at St Colman’s College in Newry between 1967 to 1987, before moving to the parish of Clonduff in Hilltown, Co Down.

Bishop McAreavey, who learned of allegations against Fr Finnegan in 1994, said Mass alongside him in 2000 in Clonduff.

His public relations advisor up to the point of his resignation on Thursday was Tom Kelly.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Monday afternoon, Mr Kelly defended Bishop McAreavey whilst admitting his position had become untenable.

“It is kind of a different situation between ourselves and Bishop John in that I’ve known him since I was 14 or 15,” he said.

“I’ve seen, and been on the receiving end of, his pastoral care. I felt that at some stage, the guy should be given time to explain. And it’s not easy to explain when you’re in the kind of maelstrom of a media war.”

After describing his friend as “very caring and a very kind”, Mr Kelly added: “I think when you lose the confidence of the diocese you have to resign.”

Bishop McAreavey has also been defended by his nephew, also named John McAreavey, whose wife Michaela was the victim of a notorious murder in Mauritius in 2011.

John McAreavey, in a statement posted on social media, said: “Uncle John has dedicated his life to God and to serving others. He has always acted with people’s best intentions at heart.”