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CANON BROWN STEPS ASIDE

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

CANON BROWN STEPS ASIDE thumbnailBishop Philip Boyce

CANON Francis Brown has said that he is expecting to be back in his role within the Diocese of Dromore "in the near future".

One of the Diocese's top priests, Canon Brown has stood aside while a police investigation takes place into a historic allegation against him.

However, in a statement, Canon Brown said that he  has not been made aware of the nature of the allegation.

It is believed he told shocked parishoners of the news at Saturday's 6pm Mass at Newry Cathedral.

A Hilltown native, Canon Brown is a former teacher and was President of St Colman's College until 2009, when he was moved from the role by the former Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey, as part of the annual diocesan changes. He is also the Chairperson of the Board of Governors at St Clare's Abbey PS.

A PSNI spokesman said: "PSNI Public Protection Branch are currently investigating an historical allegation of abuse against a member of clergy in the Diocese of Dromore.

"This allegation was reported to PSNI in April 2018".

"As this is an ongoing investigation it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time."

On Saturday evening a spokesperson confirmed that the investigation was taking place regarding a "safeguarding allegation of an historic nature against a Priest of the Diocese."

The statement added, "The Diocese and the priest are cooperating fully with this ongoing investigation and will continue to do so.

"While this allegation is being investigated, and as part of the diocesan Safeguarding Procedures, the priest has voluntarily stepped aside from all public ministry pending the outcome of the investigation.

"The Diocese cannot make further comment at this time whilst an investigation is ongoing.

"The Diocese advise anyone who may have a concern of a safeguarding nature to contact the PSNI, Social Services, or the Diocesan Designated Safeguarding Officer (Telephone: 077 8991 7741)."

Then, on Sunday morning, Canon Brown confirmed in a statement that he was the priest who was being investigated.

"I have been informed by Bishop Philip Boyce, the Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese, that an allegation of an historic nature has been made against me. The details of the allegation have not so far been made known to either myself or The Diocese," he said.

"The complaint has been made recently and I understand that some time is required to have it investigated.

"Naturally, I have agreed therefore to step aside from my role as Administrator of the Parish for the time being to allow the investigation to be completed.

"In accordance with the agreed protocol I shall not be involved in ministry during that period of time.

"I wish to reassure all of my parishioners, my fellow priests, deacon and religious that I look forward to a thorough and expeditious examination of this matter and I expect to return to my work in the parish in the near future.

"I hope that you will remember me in your thoughts and prayers in the weeks ahead and I look forward to returning soon to again serve you in the Parish of Newry."

The investigation comes after the Diocese of Dromore was embroiled in the scandal over its handling of abuse claims made against paedophile Father Malachy Finnegan, who worked at St Colman's College from 1967 and was president from 1976 to 1987. He was never questioned by police or prosecuted.

Earlier this year Bishop McAreavey resigned after it emerged he celebrated Mass alongside Finnegan despite knowing he was a paedophile.

We asked St Colman's if they had been made aware of any allegations against Canon Brown from his time at the school. In response they said: "The College will not be making any comment as this matter is subject to a police investigation."

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