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Another Irish bishop steps down

CWN - November 23, 2011

The Vatican has announced the resignation of another Irish bishop, leaving 7 of the country’s 26 dioceses without an active bishop.

Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry announced that he was stepping down because of “a health condition which has been assessed to render me unable to fulfill the obligations of my office.” He did not identify the medical condition, but disclosed that although he is now taking treatment, the problem is considered irreversible.

At the age of 71, Bishop Hegarty is 4 years short of the usual retirement age. The timing of his resignation may be significant because he had previously served as Bishop of Raphoe, where numerous complaints of chld abuse have been filed. An investigative report on the handling of sex-abuse complaints in the Raphoe diocese, prepared by the National Board for Safeguarding Children at the request of the Church, has recently been completed and submitted to the current head of the diocese, Bishop Philip Boyce. Its public release is expected in the coming weeks.

News of Bishop Hegarty’s resignation prompted new interest in reports that the Vatican is planning a reconfiguration of the Irish hierarchy, after an apostolic visitation that followed the eruption of the sex-abuse scandal in that country. The Irish Catholic has reported that the Vatican will eliminate a large number of the country’s dioceses. The fact that 7 episcopal sees are now empty would make such a change easier.

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