The Church of the Assumption in Mooncoin was full on Saturday night as Fr Peter Muldowney returned to say Mass for the first time since Sept 2011 when he asked for a leave of absence.
He was assisted in the Mass by his bishop, Dr Seamus Freeman who welcomed the Kilmanagh native back to the parish.
Addressing parishioners, Fr Muldowney thanked them for their support and invited everyone back to the parochial house after the service for tea and sandwiches. He received a round of applause from the congregation.
The priest said he was relieved and happy to be back and that everyone who knew him was aware that he was innocent.
He also said Mass yesterday in St Kevin’s Church in Carrigeen, where he similarly received a round of applause from the parishioners there.
Afterwards, the priest said that he was going to concentrate on the welfare of the people he served and would do that to the best of his ability and in the spirit of the gospel.
From there, he continued to a First Holy Communion service in Mooncoin.
Fr Muldowney said he was heartened by the response from the people of the parish to his return and added that he was delighted to be back among his flock, stating that the last eight months had been difficult.
In a statement on the Ossory Diocesan website, Dr Freeman said Fr Muldowney had sought a period of leave from his ministry so that a safeguarding matter received by the diocese concerning him could be addressed.
“I adhered to his request. All Church and State safeguarding guidelines were fully complied with and I now inform you that this safeguarding matter has been withdrawn and Fr Peter returns to active ministry,” the statement ended.