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Pope dismisses controversial Irish priest

Added on January 21, 2005


Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent
21/01/2005


Father Neil Horan, who sensationally attacked a leading contender in last year's Olympic marathon in Athens, has been dismissed from the priesthood by Pope John Paul.


It means he has lost all rights, church titles, and offices associated with being a priest. Mr Horan was told of his laicisation yesterday evening at a meeting with Archbishop Kevin McDonald of England's Southwark archdiocese, which includes parishes in south London.

Also present was Southwark's Vicar General, Monsignor Richard Moth.

Mr Horan (57) has held no appointment with the archdiocese since 1994, when his faculties to exercise priestly ministry were withdrawn on health grounds. In a short statement yesterday the archdiocese said "although no longer a priest of the diocese, the diocesan authorities will continue to have a concern for Neil's future well-being."

A native of Kerry, Mr Horan achieved international notoriety last year when he disrupted the marathon race during the Olympics in Athens by lunging at race leader Vanderlei de Lima from Brazil. He explained he had stopped the runner as a way of drawing attention to the Second Coming of Christ.

On August 30th last he was given a one-year suspended sentence by a Greek court following the incident.

In Britain he had been jailed for two months in 2003 after he caused Formula One drivers to swerve at high speeds when he invaded the track to draw attention to the Bible.

Last March he was charged with gross indecency with a girl after a complaint was made to police by the Archdiocese of Southwark.

The girl's mother told a diocesan child protection officer of an incident in mid-1991. The charge was later changed to indecency with a child.

At his trial the former priest told the court that while he had been naked in the presence of the woman and her daughter, and had played a game of hide-and-seek with them, it was what he called "innocent fun".

On October 28th last he was acquitted of the charge. Immediately afterwards, outside the Old Bailey in London, he changed into a short red kilt, emerald green vest, socks, beret, and green satin underpants (displayed during the court case) and danced what he called a "soft jig". He also vowed never to attempt publicity-seeking stunts at international sporting events again.

In anticipation of being "defrocked" at yesterday's meeting with Archbishop McDonald, he said he might dance a jig afterwards outside Archbishop's House. He planned on dedicating it to survivors of the Asian tsunami.

Last month it emerged that two priests of Ferns diocese had been dismissed by the Pope, as had a priest in the Kerry diocese last summer.


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