Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Sunday, 28 March 2010 17:22 UK

Child concerns see priest 'take leave'

Interior of St Peter's Cathedral in Belfast
A priest has agreed to take leave during an investigation

A parish priest in the Diocese of Armagh has been asked to take a period of leave from his ministry due to concerns over child safety.

Cardinal Sean Brady told the congregation about his decision after Vigil Mass on Saturday.

"This is to allow the civil authorities, who have been informed, to investigate this matter," he said.

The cardinal said the priest "continues to enjoy the right to the presumption of innocence".

He said that he had asked the priest to take a period of leave and that he had agreed to do so.

"The policy of the Archdiocese of Armagh is that in all matters relating to child safeguarding, the safety and welfare of the child must be our paramount concern," Dr Brady said.

He also invited any person who may have been abused by a priest or religious person to come forward.

On Saturday, Cardinal Brady's spokesman rejected suggestions that he would be forced to quit.

Cardinal Brady, the leader of Ireland's Catholics, has apologised for his role in the handling of sex abuse cases, saying he wants to work towards a just resolution of a case being taken against him by a man who alleges he was abused by a priest.

There have been calls for the cardinal's resignation since it emerged he was present at two meetings in the 1970s when victims of Fr Brendan Smyth were sworn to silence about their ordeal.

Information provided by the victims was not passed on to police and Smyth went on to abuse many more children before finally being convicted, in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, of nearly 150 sex attacks on children.

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