Irish bishop WiIliam Lee of Waterford has said he is not opposed to women priests.

Lee made the comments during a meeting with a local pastoral council according to the Munster Express newspaper.

His position is bound to be controversial in an Irish church that has always opposed such comments from ordinary priests. The comments are surprising from Lee who is not considered a liberal figure in the church and has rarely courted controversy.

Lee was speaking at a meeting which was primarily concerned with the sex abuse scandal and to listen to local parish recommendations. He spoke about the new church policy called “Safeguarding our Children” which has been put in effect in every parish in Ireland.

The Bishop was criticized from the floor by parishioners who felt the crisis had been very poorly handled. Some said that  leading hierarchy were “more concerned with protecting the institution than caring for those hurt by abuse.”

“People feel nobody is listening and maybe that partly explains the absence of so many young people from Mass and other church ceremonies," said one.