Police-probe priest steps aside
A Catholic priest in Northern Ireland has stepped aside after allegations surrounding the safeguarding of children were made against him.
Father John McManus from Portaferry told parishioners in Ballygalget, Co Down, he was taking administrative leave.
He denies claims made against him on January 27 to the Down and Connor diocesan child safeguarding office.
Police have begun to investigate the allegations, the Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, said. "As I am speaking to you tonight, Father McManus is informing the parishioners of Ballygalget that he has now decided to step aside from his ministry as a priest and from the position of Chancellor of this diocese during the necessary inquiries," the bishop said.
On the evening of January 27 the diocesan child safeguarding office received the allegations against Father McManus and the next day, the team reported those allegations to the police and social services.
That same day the bishop imposed restrictions on the priest's ministry and on his role as chancellor of the diocese. Those restrictions were discussed with and approved by the police, the social services and with the diocesan advisory panel as meeting child safeguarding concerns.
Bishop Treanor added: "The police have commenced an inquiry into the allegations and the diocese is fully co-operating with the police inquiry. Father McManus is also co-operating fully with the police. He denies all the allegations. Like all other persons in his position, Father McManus too enjoys the presumption of innocence."
Father McManus said the allegations "saddened" him.
"The police have been investigating these allegations and I have co-operated fully with their inquiry, at all times denying these allegations," he said. "I have, however, requested administrative leave for the duration of the necessary inquiries from my ministry as a priest and from my position as chancellor, where I retained administrative responsibilities only, in accordance with the restrictions placed upon me."
He added: "I ask for your prayers. I ask for your prayers, first, for all those who have been abused and all those hurt by abuse. And I also ask for your prayers for me."