Dioceses in limbo as seventh bishop quits post
SEVEN Catholic dioceses are awaiting the appointment of a new bishop following the resignation yesterday of Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty.
More than a quarter of the church's 26 dioceses across Ireland are now in need of a new bishop.
Dr Hegarty (71) yesterday confirmed that he had tendered his resignation to Pope Benedict citing health concerns.
In a statement, he said that he had received a diagnosis for an illness that was irreversible and progressive.
"I am now receiving treatment," he added.
Last night, a church spokesman confirmed that the three dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin, Limerick and Cloyne currently had no sitting bishop.
He said that bishops in the three dioceses of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Kerry and Elphin had submitted resignations to the Pope on their 75th birthdays in accordance with canon law.
He added that responsibility for accepting those resignations and appointing a new bishop fell on the Pope.
In a statement yesterday, Dr Hegarty said that he had hoped to continue until he was 75 but could not for medical reasons.
"In July of this year, a local newspaper indicated that I had been undergoing medical tests.
"Very recently, I received a diagnosis of a condition which is. . . irreversible and progressive," he said in a statement.
Dr Hegarty was ordained in 1966 and became Bishop of Derry in 1994. He was Bishop of Raphoe from 1982 until November 1994.
A report by the National Board for Safeguarding Children into allegations of sexual abuse at the diocese over the past 35 years is due to be published in the coming weeks.
Dr Hegarty has said he would welcome a statutory inquiry into the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations there by church and state authorities.
During his years in Raphoe one of the country's most notorious paedophile priests, Eugene Greene, served in Donegal and was moved through several parishes.
After almost 25 years' abusing, and eight parish moves, Greene was jailed for 12 years in 2000 after pleading guilty to 41 sample charges against 26 victims. He was freed in 2008.
Dr Hegarty has been challenged over the church's handling of the Greene case.
More recently a spokesman for Dr Hegarty offered face-to-face talks with dissident republicans in Derry.