Wednesday, 31 December 2014



This Blog received the following comment overnight:

"Dear Bishop Buckley,

You might be interested in this:

The world and its mother knows that Paul Symonds did not "retire" from the priesthood. I think it is worrying that he is involved in any type of "healing ministry".

Concerned parishioner. Ballymena"

The following is the piece on the Divine Healing Ministeries website about Father Symonds:

Fr Symonds pic on Divine Healing Ministeries website

Fr Paul Symonds

Fr Paul Symonds was born in London in 1944 and grew up in the south of England. Even as a boy at primary school, he was making friends across the denominations, some of whom remain friends to this day. He was ordained priest at Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit boarding school in Lancashire, in 1976 and remained a teacher and chaplain in the school for the next three years. From Stonyhurst he went to Brussels where he worked in an ecumenical project alongside the European institutions, part chaplaincy, part study centre. He was instrumental in setting up an ecumenical Prayer Breakfast in the European Parliament, which has met without a break from 1980 to the present day, even though the members have inevitably changed following the various European elections. He worked in Brussels, Strasbourg and Deventer (Holland) and speaks fluent Dutch and French. From Brussels Fr Paul went to Rome where he met and became friends with Fr Martin Magill. That friendship was the seed of his vocation to Northern Ireland. He came to Belfast in 1988 as a member of the Columbanus Community of Reconciliation and, in addition to the ecumenical ministry of the community, he did relief work in various parishes and helped the prison chaplains in the Maze, Maghaberry and Crumlin Road prisons. In 1992 he was appointed assistant priest in the parish of Drumbo in South Belfast, where he spent six very happy years. In 1998 he was appointed chaplain in St Malachy's College and in 2003 assistant priest in Ballymena, with special responsibility for the Harryville area of the parish. In October 2009, on reaching his 65th birthday, Fr Paul took retirement from full-time ministry and now lives in Glengormley and is very much involved in Glengormley Presbyterian Church, Glengormley Methodist Church and St Anne's Cathedral. He has been involved in Divine Healing Ministries from the beginning - as a member of the team, as a member of the Committee, as a speaker and simply as a member of the congregation on a Monday in St George's Church or St Anne's Cathedral.

The Divine Healing Ministeries website says the following about their work:


Divine Healing Ministries was founded in 1992 to pray for the healing of individuals and of our land.
Prayer for healing is offered weekly at five different venues in Belfast.

What is Divine Healing?

Divine Healing is an endeavour, through prayer, counselling, the laying-on of hands, and anointing with oil, to bring to someone in need of wholeness the healing love of Jesus Christ.

What can you receive prayer for?

Loneliness, past hurts, anxiety, stress, recovery from sickness, physical healing, broken relationship, your relationship with God, someone you are concerned about, temptation, guidance over a decision. You can receive prayer for any need in your life.

What can you expect?

Sometimes God does a miracle instantaneously, but today people are often healed gradually over a period of time. Through prayer, we can expect to find peace, strength and healing, and at least an improvement in our condition."


I do not know Father Symonds. I have friends who knew him when he was spiritual director in St Malachy's Seminary in Belfast and speak well of him.

I do know that for the past few years he has been having difficulties after being accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a young male student when he was on the staff of Stonyhurst College.

In fact that young boy - now a man - has been in contact with me and I have no reason whatsoever to disbelieve his account of the inappropriate relationship.

This inappropriate relationship was I think investigated by the police.

I know that the young boy - now a man - received compensation.

I also know that in October just past Father Symonds was the subject of a Church Trial at Archbishop's House in Dublin. The judge on the case was a former class mate of mine - Father Paul Churchill - a canon lawyer.

Father Paul Churchill - Dublin

I have not heard what the outcome of the case was.

It is said in the Diocese of Down and Connor that Bishop Noel Treanor told Father Symonds that he would never work again in the diocese?

Father Symonds confronted Bishop Treanor in public during a church service and apparently after the service Bishop Treanor and Father Symonds had a "blazing row" in the church grounds?

The statement on the Divine Healing Ministeries website that Father Symonds "retired" from the priesthood in 2009 appears to me to be misleading.

The talk in the Diocese of Down and Connor is that there was a further "inappropriate" relationship while Father Symonds was spiritual director in St. Malachys.

My overall impression is that Father Symonds is not a "bad" man -

- that he is a very well meaning man with human weaknesses and vulnerabilities. 

Of course that would beg the question - "Is it appropriate for Father Symonds to be a member of a team of counsellors and healers who are dealing with very vulnerable people?

Is Father Symonds not putting himself in a difficult situation by involving himself in this work?

One also wonders if those who supervise the Divine Healing Ministeries are fully aware of Father Symond's circumstances?

Bishop Treanor

And is this situation not a symptom of the fact that Bishop Treanor and the Catholic Church have failed to clarify where he stands?

Is Bishop Treanor not leaving himself open to claims of irresponsibility if a problem occurs?

Is all of this not a disaster waiting to happen?

+Pat Buckley


  1. As a senior priest of this diocese why did I have to hear on this blog that Paul Symonds underwent a Canonical Trial?

    Why was I not told this "in house"?

    PP D&C

    1. Father,

      You read that on here quite simply because you do not matter!

      Another "Does not matter"

  2. In fairness though - if a young guy with sore feet goes in need of "divine healing", it will be right up Paul's alley!

  3. Catholic priests do not retire at 65.

    The normal retirement age is 75.

    The D&C clerical changes of 2009 did not say that Father Symonds was retiring.

    Priest of Down and Connor.

  4. The Divine Healing Ministeries web site lists a number of prominent clergy among its "healers" and committee.

    Surely like all church and public organisations they must have a vetting procedure?

    If not - why not?

    A worshipper of St Anne's Cathedral.

  5. What was the outcome of the police investigation?

    What was the outcome of the Church Court?

    Are we ordinary Catholics of the Diocese of Down and Connor not entitled to know which priests are safe to work with our children and vulnerable adults and which are not?

    Is Father Symonds allowed to say Mass, hear confessions and celebrate the other sacraments in our churches in Down and Connor?

    Can we have that answered from LISBREEN please - or must I now keep my children away from all churches to keep them safe?

    Colin (Belfast)

  6. PS: Are there any other active priests in Down and Connor who were arraigned before a Church Court on questions that affect child and vulnerable adult protection?

    If so who are they - and what ministeries are they active in?

    Colin (Belfast)

  7. Paul Symonds is not allowed to minister as a priest in Down and Connor or anywhere else. It is DISHONEST to say he "retired"! Questions need asked and answered here of and by, Down and Connor and the Divine Healing people. Some of us should ring the papers! Concerned parishioner, B'mena.

  8. It seems that after all the criticism, all the hand wringing and all the promises to do things differently the D&C authorities have been found wanting - yet again!

  9. I do not know Fr Symonds but a quick look at his cv and history should at least have warranted a closer look and enquiry by the D & C authorities. I have just spoken with a close friend a serving and senior priest in the D&C diocese. This is the first he has heard of the Ecclasiastical Court reported to have been sitting in October. He has assured me that many other senior clerics know nothing about this matter but as he said it only adds further fuel on the fires of discontent among the rank and file priests. He had a few choice words which were not in keeping with the season of goodwill !!