By Noel Baker, Irish Examiner
The Catholic Church in Australia has apologised after a priest said murdered Irishwoman Jill Meagher would have been "home in bed" the night she was killed had her religious faith been stronger.
The comments, made by a priest at an end-of-term service for schoolchildren, sparked outrage both in Australia and in Ireland.
It is understood the priest was delivering a homily at St Christopher's Primary School in the Melbourne suburb of Airport West when he raised a copy of a newspaper referencing Ms Meagher's murder by Australian man Adrian Bayley.
It is understood the priest said if Ms Meagher had been "more faith-filled", she "would have been home in bed" and "not walking down Sydney Road at 3am".
The Drogheda woman was raped and murdered by Bayley in September 2012, in an attack which shocked Australia.
This week Bayley, who is serving a life sentence for Ms Meagher's murder, was found guilty of raping three other women before he attacked Jill Meagher. He now has 20 rape convictions.
Regarding the comments made yesterday in Melbourne, a Catholic Church official there said the priest had apologised for the offence caused.
The Age newspaper reported that Monsignor Greg Bennett - vicar-general of the archdiocese of Melbourne - said the archdiocese was aware of the incident and that he did not support the "totally inappropriate" and "offensive" comments.
"I've spoken with the priest; he acknowledges that the homily wasn't appropriate and apologises for the offence and upset it has caused," said Msgnr Bennett.
"The reference to Jill Meagher in particular was offensive and inappropriate, and the people of Victoria and Ireland mourn her sad and tragic death. We do not share the sentiment of the homily this morning and we certainly apologise for the hurt that this homily may have caused today."
Bayley's latest convictions show that two of the victims - a Dutch backpacker and a local sex worker - were raped just months before he attacked and killed Jill Meagher.
Her death led to serious criticism of the local Parole Board, with it since emerging that Bayley committed a number of crimes while on parole.