A priest defamed by national broadcaster RTE, which accused him of raping a woman and fathering her child, told his parishioners on Sunday that the television company’s apology freed him from lies, false allegations and baseless accusations.
Father Kevin Reynolds, 65, was speaking at a Mass to mark his reinstatement as parish priest of Ahascragh, Co. Galway.
Hundreds of Mass-goers gave him a standing ovation, and bunting and flags were spread to greet him on his return to the parish.
He had stepped aside while a Prime Time television program screened last May was investigated.
It had claimed he raped a girl in Kenya and fathered her child in 1982 while ministering there as a Mill Hill missionary.
Last week, RTE fully and unreservedly apologized to Reynolds for the defamation. It said he was entirely innocent of the allegations.
The Bishop of Elphin, Christopher Jones, was at the welcome home Mass. The bishop said that all 600 people present were truly delighted to welcome Reynolds back home.
He had responded to the attack on his integrity with great courage, strength, and resilience during the most dreadful experience in his life, said Jones.
Jones said all the priests of the diocese were deeply concerned and hurt at what Reynolds had endured and were delighted to see him back.
“We pray that Father Kevin will continue to enjoy peace of mind and heart as he resumes his ministry among us. We pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit, his family will experience healing in their hearts,” he said.
“Father Kevin has carried his cross with great dignity. He willingly stepped aside from ministry and never expressed anger or impatience of any kind. I believe that his own deep faith and spirituality have been his greatest source of courage and consolation through this most dreadful experience of his life.”
Reynolds said no earthly treasure could possibly buy or replace the great feeling it was to be with his parishioners again, and that he knew now that bearing false witness against one’s neighbor does so much damage that it may never be repaired.
Reynolds’ libel action in relation to last May’s allegations is expected to continue before the High Court within weeks.
He had pleaded with the makers of A Mission to Prey not to broadcast the accusations on Prime Time. He even offered to take a paternity test. He later undertook the test, which came back negative last month.
RTE said in its apology, “RTE now fully and unreservedly accepts that the allegations made by Prime Time against Father Kevin Reynolds are baseless, without any foundation whatever, and untrue, and that Father Reynolds is a priest of the utmost integrity who has had an unblemished 40-year career in the priesthood.”