The Bishop of Derry Dr Seamus Hegarty has announced that he is to stand down - just weeks after the ‘Journal’ first revealed concerns about his health.
The 71 year old says he made the decision after receiving a diagnosis of a condition which, he has now confirmed, is, “irreversible and progressive.”
In July, the Bishop responded to rumours about his health by telling the ‘Journal’ that, while he was aware his memory was “not as sharp” as it used to be, he was at that time not receiving any medical treatment.
Bishop Hegarty said he felt compelled to speak out after members of the public contacted the ‘Journal’ to voice concern about his health.
Yesterday, however, the County Donegal born Bishop said he had decided to submit his resignation to the Pope because he “can no longer fulfil his diocesan role.”
In a statement, he said: “In July of this year, a local newspaper indicated that I had been undergoing medical tests. At the time, I stated that, while this was accurate, I had not received any diagnosis or treatment. However, very recently, I received a diagnosis of a condition which is, unfortunately, irreversible and progressive. I am now receiving treatment for this condition.”.
Dr Hegarty has said he will scale back his duties while the Pope considers his letter of resignation, but he hopes to maintain a pastoral ministry as long as he is able.
Bishop Hegarty became Bishop of Derry in 1994 having previously served in the neighbouring Diocese of Raphoe for 12 years.
In recent years he has urged anyone who has been abused by a member of the clergy to go to the civil authorities and apologised to people who suffered child abuse in Catholic-run institutions.