Widower of murdered Michaela Harte has defended his uncle, the Catholic bishop who resigned having officiated at the funeral of a sex abuser priest.

A Catholic bishop who resigned last week for officiating at the funeral of a sex abuser priest has been defended by his nephew who was widowed when his first wife was murdered on their honeymoon.

Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey resigned from his diocese which includes parishes in three Northern Ireland counties because of controversy over him officiating at the funeral 15 years ago of child abuser Father Malachy Finnegan.

Finnegan spent most of his ministry at St. Colman's College in Newry and was the subject of 12 allegations of serious sexual abuse, highlighted in a BBC program screened last month. The program also investigated the church’s response to the allegations.

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Bishop McAreavey wrote his letter of resignation to Pope Francis last Thursday.  In a message to his flock read at Masses last Sunday, the bishop said that he decided to resign following media coverage which had upset and disturbed many people.

He said, “I do so with a heavy heart. I wrestled with this decision over recent weeks; it was not an easy decision to take.”

Almost immediately his nephew, also called John McAreavey, the widower of murdered honeymooner Michaela Harte, defended his uncle. Michaela, murdered in Mauritius in 2011, was the daughter of Tyrone GAA football manager Mickey Harte. Two hotel workers were acquitted in court of her murder.

Nephew John McAreavey, who has since remarried, denounced what he called callous and vindictive coverage of the bishop’s resignation. He also indicated for the first time that he also felt personally injured and aggrieved at his treatment since the murder of Michaela while on their honeymoon in Mauritius.

He wrote in a tweet, “In the past seven years, I’ve lived with people questioning my decision to seek life and love again. I’ve been accused of unspeakable acts. I’ve endured injustice of a great magnitude…but to see my uncle, John McAreavey, vilified in recent times like he has been, causes great pain and anger.

“Uncle John has dedicated his life to God and to serving others. He has always acted with people’s best intentions at heart. To see some media use vulnerable people to achieve a ‘demonstration of great power’ is both callous and vindictive. We need to care for people by listening and trying to right the wrongs of the past, not using their plight for personal gain.”

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