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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 February, 2005, 13:20 GMT
Bishop sorry over sex abuse levy
Dr Seamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry
Dr Hegarty aplogises for not informing parishioners of the levy
A letter explaining the decision to scrap a controversial levy on church collections has been read out at masses in the Derry diocese on Sunday.

Bishop of Derry Dr Seamus Hegarty's letter apologised for not telling parishioners that a 3% levy was going towards a fund for victims of clerical sex abuse.

The revelations were made in BBC NI's Spotlight programme on Tuesday.

The letter told parishioners they had a right to know where their money went.

The bishop has accepted a recommendation from the priests of the diocese that the levy should be abolished.

He says money paid into the Stewardship Trust Fund, as it is known, will be returned to the parishes.

However, the letter stated that the obligation of the diocese to reach out and support child sexual abuse victims remains.

The difference is parishioners will now be consulted about how to go about doing that.

Priests in the diocese held an emergency meeting in Londonderry on Friday to which the bishop was not invited.

In a statement following the meeting, Monsignor Joseph Donnelly said: "The bishop and priests of Derry diocese have decided to abolish the 3% levy on parishes for the Stewardship Fund and return to the parishes all monies that have already been paid."

Earlier on Friday, Bishop of Clogher Dr Joseph Duffy said 105,600 euros had been paid from the diocese into the Stewardship Trust.

The fund was set up by the Irish bishops to fund child protection initiatives and provide financial redress to victims of child sexual abuse by priests.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
BBC NI's Rosy Billingham:
"The letter states that the obligation of the diocese to reach out and support child sexual abuse victims remains"



SEE ALSO:
Sex abuse levy 'to be abolished'
25 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
Monies 'were not paid into fund'
24 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
Church regrets row over donations
24 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
Bishop speaks out on abuse case
30 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland


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