Parishioners to hold rally in support of 'caring' cleric Fr Ciaran Dallat
A rally in support of Fr Ciaran Dallat, who allegedly broke his vow of celibacy to have a two-year affair with a woman, has been organised by his parishioners.
The rally will be held outside St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast at 7pm today "to show support for Fr Ciaran from the young and old of the parish to let him know that he is sadly missed".
More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition for Fr Dallat to return to St Peter's where he is still officially an assistant priest. Parishioners have not seen him since allegations about his relationship with a 49-year-old north Belfast woman emerged last week. However, they have said that despite the controversy they want him back.
One woman leaving Mass yesterday morning said: "All the parishioners love Fr Dallat. He is a lovely man. He would have tea for us all every Wednesday. He gave so much of his time to the parish it would be a very real loss if he did not return. I've no interest in what is being said about him."
Another woman said: "This morning's Gospel was about Mary Magdalene and how he without sin should cast the first stone. That was very fitting today. Even if it is true we would throw our arms around Fr Dallat and welcome him back."
A Facebook page has been set up to support Fr Dallat and has been inundated with messages, both supportive and critical.
Therese McGarry wrote: "We support you Fr Dallat, and hope you return to St Peter's."
Vincent Morrow said: "Fr Ciaran is a fantastic priest ... keep strong Fr Ciaran."
And Ciara Graham wrote: "I worked alongside Fr Ciaran in Sacred Heart Parish. He is a very caring and passionate person and worked hard for the children and families of the parish to make big changes...
"Fr Dallat offered us inspiration during our time working with him and that we will always remember."
However, one parishioner told the Belfast Telegraph: "If a GP had a relationship with one of his patients, even if it was consensual, he would be disciplined. This is a very big breach of trust issue."