Bishop who wed Michaela takes year out to pray over her murder
BISHOP John McAreavey, the uncle of John McAreavey whose wife Michaela was murdered in Mauritius in January last year, is to take sabbatical leave for most of next year.
The Bishop of Dromore cited the "great sadness and tragedy" he has experienced in recent times as part of the reason he is travelling to the Holy Land to study and pray for eight months.
Bishop McAreavey presided over Michaela's marriage to his nephew and, weeks later, her funeral.
Michaela (27) was murdered at the former Legends Hotel resort in Mauritius while she was on honeymoon.
Two hotel workers, Sandip Moneea and Avinash Treebhoowoon, were cleared of her murder in July following a trial attended by Michaela's grieving husband, John.
The 27-year-old accountant has since told how his faith helped sustain him during the ordeal that has left his and Michaela's devastated families with no answers as to who killed her.
In a DVD promoting vocations made by the Armagh Archdiocese, the young widower said: "I found great resolve in my faith. Thank God that I had because I would have been absolutely lost."
In the interview he described how he still "very much" felt married to Michaela, adding: "I miss her a lot. But I just have to try and accept that I have Michaela in a different way now."
Bishop McAreavey will take leave from February to September next year
"The years since my ordination as bishop in September 1999 have been both fulfilling and challenging," he said following a pastoral conference at Dromantine Retreat and Conference Centre in Newry.
"In recent times, along with my family, I have experienced great sadness and tragedy. Having consulted with colleagues and friends, I have now decided to undertake this period of personal renewal."
The bishop made the surprise announcement in order to allow the Dromore Diocese to plan for his leave and as a courtesy to the priests and faithful of Dromore diocese.
"During this period I plan to spend time in prayer and study in the Holy Land," he said.
"While there, I shall follow courses on the sacred scriptures. I look forward to this time as a period of spiritual and personal renewal, which will enable me to fulfil the ministry of bishop with greater energy."
Bishop McAreavey, who has spoken with Cardinal Sean Brady and other bishops about his absence, added: "They have given me their support for my decision.
"I ask the faithful for their prayerful support at this time. I am grateful for the love and care that they have always shown me. I look forward to this time of prayer, study and renewal and to returning to continue my ministry as Bishop of Dromore in September 2013."
Mauritian police are almost four months into a new investigation into Michaela's death.
Legal proceedings against the only suspect still facing charges, hotel security guard Dassen Narayanen, are to resume next month.
Provisional murder charges against Mr Narayanen in the early days of the original investigation were later downgraded to conspiracy charges for allegedly planning to steal from the McAreaveys' hotel room.