A crowd of more than 600 packed into St Cuan’s Church in Ahascragh to welcome back Fr Kevin Reynolds, with flags and bunting erected in the east Co Galway town as their parish priest was reinstated.
Fr Reynolds stepped aside from his ministry after an RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme last May incorrectly claimed he had raped a girl in Kenya and fathered her child in 1982.
RTÉ last week acknowledged the defamation and apologised to Fr Reynolds after a paternity test proved he was not the child’s father. Fr Reynolds has issued libel proceedings against RTÉ.
Bishop of Elphin Dr Christopher Jones said: “We were all shocked and saddened as we watched RTÉ Prime Time Investigates on May 23. We were shocked not only by the allegations made against Fr Kevin but also by the manner in which they were made.
“He has carried his cross with great dignity. He willingly stepped aside from ministry.”
Bishop Jones said the Catholic church was committed to the safeguarding of children, but this incident was unhelpful. “I wish to remember again today those who have suffered through child sexual abuse. Occasions such as this are a disservice to the validated experiences of so many.”
Fr Reynolds said: “I do not return with anger or resentment, with bitterness or any ill-will in my heart. Today I’m a little battle-weary and wounded and the scars will remain but thank God, I am free. Freed from the lies, from false allegations, baseless accusations.”