I forgive the thief who robbed me, says Derry priest
A priest serving in the diocese of Derry has spoken of his decision to forgive a criminal who stole £500 from him at Christmas almost three years ago.
Fr Paddy O'Kane, parish priest of the Holy Family Parish in the Ballymagroarty area of Londonderry, was speaking after serial burglar Ciaran Hogan (28) was jailed for six months.
He had stolen the money after Fr O'Kane had taken pity on him and given him a bed for the night in his parochial house.
Hogan, who had 59 previous convictions, was a serving prisoner in Maghaberry jail when he was sentenced yesterday. Hogan, from the Ballyarnett area in Derry, had written to the priest from prison, begging him for forgiveness.
But when Fr O'Kane visited Hogan in jail, he told him to withdraw his statement to the police.
"I refused as I wasn't going to lie to anyone. I then told him about God's love and mercy for him. I pleaded with him to turn his life around and this ended with a prayer together and I told him I forgave him," Fr O'Kane said.
In his statement to the police, Fr O'Kane said Hogan arrived at his parochial house at 5am on December 18, 2011, in a distressed state and threatening suicide.
He made him tea and offered him a bed for the night. But the following day, after Hogan had left the parochial house, he noticed that £500 was missing from his office and contacted police.
Hogan was arrested the following day. He denied his involvement in the theft but minutes before his case was due to take place yesterday, he pleaded guilty.
Jailing Hogan, Deputy District Judge Sean O'Hare said he had thrown the priest's kindness back in his face.