A priest in Londonderry has sent shockwaves through the Catholic Church by resigning after he became involved in a relationship with a woman.
Fr Sean McKenna, parish priest at the Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty, told his stunned congregation during Mass services at the weekend that he had fallen in love.
The 51-year-old priest, who has been a popular member of the local Catholic clergy for over 20 years, said he had taken the decision to leave after embarking on a “loving” and “beautiful” relationship”.
He also said that the celibacy clause inherent in ordination to the priesthood had forced him to make the decision to leave.
Fr McKenna received a standing ovation from the congregation after speaking directly to the people.
Despite their shock, messages of support have been pouring in from parishioners throughout today with many people expressing admiration for his honesty and openness.
It is understood the priest tendered his resignation to a shocked Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty over the past few days.
Fr McKenna was today keeping a low profile, but in a statement to his parishioners delivered from the altar over the weekend, he said: “I am here today to tell you that I have decided to leave the priesthood.
“After a long period of reflection and discernment, I have approached Bishop Hegarty this week to inform him of what I have decided.
“He has, with great regret, agreed to accept my decision.”
Father Michael Canny, the spokesman for the Derry Diocese, said he and Bishop Hegarty were shocked to hear the news.