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Bishop 'reported to police' over abuse allegation

by Donna Birrell

The former Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle has been reported to the police following an allegation of abuse, according to the Catholic Herald.

Rt Rev Robert Byrne who’s 66, resigned in December citing the “burden of office”.

The newspaper claims Bishop Robert was reported to the police in December after an allegation was made against him by a priest from another diocese to his bishop.

It said concerns have been raised over attempts by Bishop Robert to move a Dominican priest into a cathedral house even though the priest was convicted in 2014 of making more than five thousand images of child pornography.

The Vatican is currently investigating the events leading up to Bishop Robert’s resignation. This week it emerged that information had come to light about an alleged sex party at St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle.  The party is said to have taken place in the priests’ living quarters attached to the cathedral. There is no suggestion Bishop Robert took part in or was present at the alleged party – or that he was aware of it.

Complaints are said to have been made that the then Dean of the Cathedral, Fr Michael McCoy, had approached people to attend a party during lockdown, when all events were banned. Fr Michael who was 57, died by suicide days after learning that Northumbria Police were to investigate him over a historic allegation of abuse.

The Archbishop of Liverpool, Most Rev Malcolm McMahon is leading the investigation on behalf of the Vatican. In a letter seen by the Catholic Herald, Archbishop McMahon confirmed that the police had been notified, although the priest, bishop or diocese were not named in the letter.

The Vatican inquiry is one of four taking place into what happened in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle under the tenure of Bishop Robert. The other inquiries are being conducted by the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA), the Charity Commission and the police.

The CSSA has confirmed that it is undertaking an “official, independent, unscheduled safeguarding audit and safeguarding review in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle”.

The Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle has referred itself to the Charity Commission

Premier has contacted the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle for comment.




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