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Priest who said couple may not wed in Church removes Facebook page

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Abortion row: Fr Damien Quigley

Abortion row: Fr Damien Quigley

Abortion row: Fr Damien Quigley

The priest at the centre of a row over whether Catholics who advocate abortion can marry in the Church appears to have removed a Facebook page in which he strongly opposed the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

According to Tuesday's BBC Radio Ulster Nolan Show, Father Damien Quigley, from the Parish of Middle Killeavy Newry, warned a couple that advocating abortion could mean their wedding would not take place in a Catholic Church.

He reportedly told the couple he had been asked to marry that their "promotion or advocacy" of abortion could also lead to him not being able to officiate at the ceremony.

Fr Quigley was reported to have written to the couple, saying: "Just a heads up, that as the priest you've asked to celebrate your wedding, you and I would need to have a conversation about any promotion you may do to advocate for abortion in Ireland.

"Such promotion or advocacy would impact on the appropriateness of me celebrating your wedding or possibly the wedding taking place in a Catholic Church. I'm sure we can have a good chat over a coffee sometime."

Fr Quigley had previously maintained an active presence on Facebook, and the day after the referendum result shared an "approximate version" of his introduction to that morning's Mass, which stated that "the majority of our brothers and sisters in the Republic of Ireland have voted to follow a tragic path".

He added that "as Catholics, we must not fall back, we must not retreat from defending life".

The priest also shared a picture on social media of a field full of tiny crosses in the shadow of three larger crosses, posted by the Save The Eighth campaign, which he captioned with the words "This. Just this."

And reacting to a previous story in which Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urged against celebratory scenes if the Republic voted in favour of repeal, Fr Quigley posted a picture of Mr Varadkar at Dublin Castle with his hands raised, captioned: "Looks like a celebration dear Taoiseach..."

The Facebook page could still be viewed publicly on Tuesday.

However, yesterday, Fr Quigley's page appeared to have been removed.

Yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph once again made an attempt to contact the priest, but he could not be reached. The Catholic Church said on Tuesday that "it would not be appropriate to discuss details of a priest's pastoral support to any specific individual or couple in their preparation for the sacrament of marriage".

The Church added: "However, please be advised that Fr Quigley has never refused to prepare any person or couple for the sacrament."

In a statement to the Nolan Show, Fr Quigley said: "From the outset, I wish to advise you that it would not be appropriate for me to discuss details of my pastoral support to any specific individual or couple in their preparation for the sacrament of marriage.

"However, please be advised that I have never refused to prepare any person or couple for the sacrament."

The Diocese of Armagh said it had "nothing further to add to Fr Damien's statement".

Belfast Telegraph