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Priest ‘stands aside’ without explanation at Belfast Cathedral

A senior Catholic cleric in Northern Ireland has temporarily stood aside, it emerged today.

Father Hugh Kennedy, the administrator of St Peter's Cathedral, in west Belfast, confirmed he took the decision after talks with Bishop Noel Treanor, the Bishop of Down and Connor.

No details have been revealed as to why he had stopped working as a priest at the Cathedral.

In a statement Father Kennedy, 55, said he took the decision after meeting with Bishop Treanor on July 20 last.

He added: "Bishop Treanor requested me to 'stand aside' from all my priestly/cathedral duties on foot of 'information' he had received. This information was not shared with me. Following from this, I have ceased working as a priest at the Cathedral.

"I have no hesitation in co-operating with church/state authorities in light of this development."

Father Kennedy was ordained a priest in 1981 when he was studying at the Irish College in Rome. He was appointed administrator at St Peter's in 2006.

A statement by the Diocese of Down and Connor said "information" was received in citing Dr Kennedy. It was forwarded to the relevant statutory authorities, (Police and Social Services), who were seeking to clarify its content.

Fr Kennedy has been on sick leave since early July, and before the information was made known to the diocese, he agreed to step aside from his duties while the information was clarified, according to the statement.

It added: "The Diocese can also confirm that the information does not relate to the Schola Cantorum, St Peter's Cathedral, nor to any member of the Schola. No further comment can be made whilst the civil authorities continue to clarify this matter."