Belfast Telegraph

Priest returns after church probe

A west Belfast priest who stood down from duties amid claims about his conduct has returned to ministry after being cleared by a church probe.

Father Hugh Kennedy had already been told that no criminal prosecution would be taken against him.

The cleric agreed to temporarily stop working in St Peter's Cathedral in 2011 while church authorities passed details of the claims to the police and social services to investigate.

Specific allegations were not outlined, but at the time Fr Kennedy issued a statement insisting he was not a child molester.

While police confirmed late last year that no file would be passed to prosecutors, Fr Kennedy remained on leave from duties pending the outcome of a separate church inquiry.

Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor today announced his return to priestly ministry.

"I wish to confirm the return of Fr Hugh Kennedy to the exercise of his priestly ministry," he said.

"Acting on information received by the Diocese in July 2011, and immediately referred to the PSNI, as required by law and in accordance with agreed procedures established by the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, Fr Kennedy voluntarily stepped aside from ministry in July 2011.

"Following a PSNI investigation and a more recent internal Church review, all relevant agencies, including the statutory authorities, are satisfied that Fr Kennedy should return to ministry.

"At no time was Fr Kennedy charged with any criminal offence or allegation nor was he subject to interview by the PSNI.

"I wish to acknowledge and thank all those who supported Fr Hugh Kennedy over the past two difficult years and I ask all to continue to support him and this parish community on his return to ministry."

Fr Kennedy was ordained as a priest in 1981 when he was studying at the Irish College in Rome. He was appointed administrator at St Peter's in 2006.

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