Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Priest resigns over relationship

Father McKenna
Father McKenna made the announcement during mass

A priest in Londonderry has resigned after telling a congregation that he has been involved in a relationship with a woman.

Father Sean McKenna made the announcement during mass at Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty on Sunday.

Father Michael Canny, the spokesman for the Derry Diocese, said he and Bishop Hegarty were shocked to hear the news.

"We are deeply saddened because Father McKenna was a priest that he, and other colleagues, held in very high esteem."

Fr McKenna told parishioners he was leaving the priesthood because he had entered into a " loving, beautiful and life-giving relationship".

It is believed he is involved with a mother-of-two, who is separated from her husband.

Passionist priest Father Brian D'Arcy said the church needed to re-examine its celibacy rule.

"The mandatory or compulsory celibacy, I think, is not only a contradiction in terms but has outlived its use by about 1,000 years and it should be changed.

"In fact, the whole culture of society is actually saying that to us," Father D'Arcy added.



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