Abuse-accused priest Fr John McManus back to work
A Catholic priest cleared of abuse allegations more than three years ago has returned to his duties.
Fr John McManus stepped aside from his Co Down parish in March 2011 during a police investigation.
The following year, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) concluded he had no case to answer.
Celebrating mass alongside Bishop Noel Treanor from the Diocese of Down and Connor yesterday, the well known priest said he was "delighted" to be back. Fr McManus, from Portaferry, told the congregation at Ballygalget: "I am both delighted and privileged to join with you for the celebration of your Sunday mass.
"The last time I celebrated mass in this church of Saint Patrick was on the March 9, 2011, Ash Wednesday, when I informed you that I had requested administrative leave from ministry for the duration of the necessary inquiries. Since then, I have been very much at home living here among you.
"I wish to thank especially my family, my neighbours and friends of all faiths and none for their support and kindness shown to me during this time.
"In this mass let us pray for each other, for those who have been hurt or neglected by the Church, for all who are suffering in the world and for the Church under the leadership of Pope Francis.
"In the words of the Advent Blessing: as you run the race of this present life, may He make you firm in faith, joyful in hope and active in charity."
"May God continue to bless you, and all of us, one and all."
The police investigation was sparked by a complaint to the church's safeguarding office.
Fr McManus was a former Press spokesman for the diocese and a member of its committee that oversees the safeguarding of children.
He was once in charge of the seminary based at St Malachy's College in Belfast and he was also principal of Ballygalget Primary School.
In a statement, Bishop Treanor said he had co-operated fully with investigators and there were no issues barring his return to ministry.
The bishop said: "After a thorough investigation by the police and the Public Prosecution Service and upon completion of a canonical judicial inquiry, with which both Fr John McManus and the Diocese co-operated fully, the canonical judicial inquiry concluded that there were not and are not any safeguarding issues that prevent his return to ministry.
"I wish Fr John many happy years of fruitful ministry after the past four-and-a-half years during which time he has been supported by his family, by friends and by you, his parishioners. I thank you, the parishioners of Portaferry and Ballygalget, for your support for Fr John which you have expressed through your prayers, thoughts and acts of kindness."