Michaella McCollum Connolly

Irish drug mule Michaella McCollum Connolly was freed in Peru last week with the help of a”Catholic” priest; however, an investigation has revealed that the priest, Sean Walsh, is a self-styled archbishop, who the Catholic Church considers a “fraud.”

McCollum Connolly, who is on parole and must stay in Lima, Peru, is now living and working with ‘Father’ Sean Walsh, producing a magazine in his apartment. 

Walsh describes himself as 'Archbishop of South America' for the 'Eastern Catholic Church' and claims he has brought the dead back to life, MailOnline reports.

The ‘church’ was set up by a three-times married former Coca Cola salesman who calls himself Bishop Malcolm Wilson, who runs the church, as well as a series of other ‘churches’ from his home in an English seaside town. He claims to represent the version of the Catholic faith established in India by St Thomas. Wilson, who runs at least five different churches of different denominations, also claims he can cure cancer.

Walsh, who claims to have been working in Peru for 40 years, has maintained an address in the U.S. under his real name, John Matthew Walsh, and where he was even a member of a Presbyterian church. 

Fr Sean Walsh with his wife Emma. Credit: Juan Carlos/MailOnline

Fr Sean Walsh with his wife Emma. Credit: Juan Carlos/MailOnline

Born in Pennsylvania, Walsh is a former Catholic priest who quit the priesthood so he could marry, He now has a wife, three adult children and grandchildren. However, he still dress in a collar, preaches, and seeks donations on his ‘church’s’ Facebook page.

These revelations raise questions over whether McCollum Connolly’s family knows the truth about the man she is living with and whether the Irish government, which worked through its honorary consul, a senior Peruvian lawyer, to secure her freedom, is aware of the truth about Walsh.

A senior official at the Roman Catholic Church in Lima says that Walsh’s group is a ‘fraud’ and has even threatened legal action.

Father Armando Chico, private secretary to the Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, called Walsh's church a 'sect.’

“There are groups out there using the label Catholic, but that doesn't mean they are,” he said.

“No matter how much they use the name Catholic they are not Catholic and their followers will realize they have been fooled.

Michaella McCollum Connolly shows a new look after her release from jail. Credit: MailOnline

Michaella McCollum Connolly shows a new look after her release from jail. Credit: MailOnline

“The Catholic Church is one structure, there is no other branches, there is no Eastern Church or Western Church, these are sects, not Catholic groups.”

When asked by MailOnline if he knew of 'Archbishop' Walsh, he said: “No, no, I haven't heard of him, he must be crazy.

“The only Catholic archbishop and cardinal priest in Lima is Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, he is the only high official of the Catholic Church here.”

Bishops and archbishops are appointed by the Pope, said Fr Chico. And Walsh is married with three children.

“There are some groups that do allow bishops to marry, but the Catholic Church does not, that's why I am saying this individual belongs to a sect which is using the Catholic label.”

He added that it was within the rights of the Catholic Church to take legal action against Walsh's church.

“I’m not joking about this, this is serious, we will take legal action claiming fraud,” he said.

Malcom Wilson, the self-proclaimed leader of the Eastern Catholic Church. Credit: Facebook

Malcom Wilson, the self-proclaimed leader of the Eastern Catholic Church. Credit: Facebook

The Eastern Catholic Church does not have a place of worship in Lima. Walsh says his apartment is his 'church.’
Walsh told the MailOnlne that he was Roman Catholic Priest in the U.S. who had a crisis of faith when he fell in love with his now wife, Emma, who is Peruvian.

“I realized that Roman Catholic teaching was not biblical about marriage of clergy. It was creating any number of pastoral problems for many people,” he said.

When MailOnline said he is a Catholic priest but with all the perks, Walsh laughed and said: “Exactly,” adding, “it's completely kosher, it wouldn't be in the Roman Catholic Church, which is why I'm Eastern Catholic.”

He claims he raised a man from the dead in 1969.

“The most spectacular thing that God used me in, I was called to a hospital ward and they asked me to pray for a person who was in a bad way,” he recalls.

“The doctors were working on him and they used a defibrillator on him, but it was pretty much a straight line [a flatline pulse reading].

“The doctors started leaving and I thought I would stay for a while and pray so I just knelt down there and prayed for five to ten minutes.

“They all had walked away and then I heard this bang, a nurse had dropped all the instruments she was carrying because the man came round and then all the doctors came back in. So God does hear your prayers.”

When told the Cardinal’s office described his church as a ‘sect’ he said: “We are not a sect, a sect is people who have left orthodox Biblical theology, we are not that, we are legitimate and are legally established in the national registry in Peru as a Christian denomination and are recognized as a church.

“Yes we are small, but Jesus started small, he started with 12.'

He added: “I have never misled anyone. We are not pirating the Catholics or their heritage.”

On the suggestion that the Catholic Church could sue them, he said: “Let them try, we have really good lawyers.”

He said he made it clear to McCollum Connolly’s family from the beginning that he was not a Roman Catholic bishop.

Walsh said he first met McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid, who remains behind bars, when he was asked to help by the former Irish honorary consul in Lima, Michael Russell, who has since retired.

He and Russell both visited the 'Peru Two' days after their arrest in August 2013. Walsh says the consul asked him to help.

Eduardo Benavides Torres is Ireland's 'honorary' representative in Peru. Credit: MailOnline

Eduardo Benavides Torres is Ireland's 'honorary' representative in Peru. Credit: MailOnline

The current honorary consul is Peruvian lawyer Eduardo Benavides Torres, who is the only Irish honorary consul in all of South America — suggesting he was appointed to secure McCollum Connolly's freedom.

The Irish government confirmed that he is paid for his work despite the 'honorary' title.

When asking for a comment on the consul's knowledge of the so-called Eastern Catholic Church, MailOnline was told at Mr Torres’ law firm offices that he wasn’t available.

In a statement, Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through our Embassy in Mexico and our recently appointed Honorary Consul in Lima, continue to provide consular assistance to Ms. McCollum and her family, as we have done since 2013.”