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Ireland accredits Vatican envoy after three-year hiatus

Pedophile Irish priest handed light probation sentence in Chile

AFP, Vatican City and Santiago

AFP, Vatican City and Santiago

Published: November 12, 2014 09:02 AM GMT

Updated: November 11, 2014 09:02 PM GMT

Ireland accredits Vatican envoy after three-year hiatus

Ireland accredited a new envoy to the Vatican on Tuesday, three years after Dublin closed its embassy following a row over a sex abuse probe.

Emma Madigan was received by Pope Francis, the Vatican said in a statement. She also met the Vatican's number two Pietro Parolin.

Madigan, who presented her credentials, invited the pontiff to visit Ireland, adding that while such an invitation would come from church authorities, the government would do everything "to make the visit a success," Irish foreign ministry spokeswoman Fionnuala Quinlan said.

"Ambassador Madigan underlined that Ireland is a strong advocate for the freedom of religion or belief. The persecution of members of religious minorities, including Christians, in several parts of the world is a matter of serious concern to the Irish government," Quinlan added.

The embassy shut in November 2011, ostensibly for economic reasons.

But the move was interpreted in Vatican diplomatic circles as a snub by Ireland, which accused the Holy See of trying to cover up and interfere in a report on clerical pedophilia.

The sex abuse scandal, which rocked the Catholic Church affected huge numbers of victims in Ireland, where religious leaders were accused of having protected predator priests and disrupted enquiries.

Diplomatic relations degenerated in July 2011, when Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny accused the Vatican of trying to whitewash a probe into child sex abuse committed between 1996 and 2006.

He said the Cloyne Report "exposed the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism" in the Vatican.

The Vatican denounced the actions of offending priests in Ireland but denied having tried to interfere in the report.

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Pedophile Irish priest sentenced in Chile

Separately on Tuesday, an influential Irish priest was sentenced in Chile to four years' probation for sexually abusing a young girl while he was the spiritual advisor of an elite school.

John O'Reilly, the local head of the Catholic Church's ultra-conservative Legion of Christ order, was convicted last month of repeatedly molesting the girl from the time she was five.

A court in Santiago sentenced the 68-year-old priest to four years and one day of "supervised freedom" — a punishment roughly equivalent to probation that involves no prison time — and barred him from working in schools or with children.

Prosecutors had requested a sentence of 10 years in prison.

"This was not an easy case. It has special connotations, at a particular school and involving a person who's not just anybody," prosecutor Lorena Parra told journalists as she left the courthouse, praising the decision to bar O'Reilly from working with children.

Defense lawyer Luis Hermosilla said he and his client would decide whether to appeal in the next 10 days.

The court found O'Reilly had sexually abused the now nine-year-old student at the exclusive Colegio Cumbres school in eastern Santiago between March and December 2010 and March and July 2012.

He was also accused of molesting the girl's older sister, but the court found insufficient evidence to support the charge. AFP

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