"A CATHOLIC CLERIC wanted for questioning over a string of alleged child sex crimes in Belfast may soon face extradition from his bolthole in continental Europe, The Sunday World can reveal.
The veteran priest who is in his 70's is being sought by detectives from the PSNI Care Unit at Garnerville in east Belfast.
A former Parish Priest, he was stood down - without prejudice - by the church two years ago following a complaint of historic sex abuse allegations.
He had been living in a residential home but quit the home and headed to warmer climes in Europe.
Cops are keen to quiz the cleric about a number of sexual assault allegations including one involving an 11-year-old schoolgirl.
The incident allegedly happened when he was based in a parish in Belfast in the late 1970s. And the Sunday World has been made aware of at least two other alleged cases involving the retired priest.
But before police were able to speak to him, the priest upped sticks and moved to the continent.
A middle-aged Catholic woman who spoke to The Sunday World claims she made a formal complaint about him to the police more than nine months ago.
But yesterday she hit out at the lack of progress in the case.
A mother of three grown-up children, she told The Sunday World: "I have been waiting for the best part of a year now for this investigation to progress, but it appears to have hit a brick wall".
"It is extremely stressful and very unfair. I have been waiting nine months now but in reality I have been waiting 40 years".
The Sunday World understands the priest - who is a keen golfer - is currently living in a luxury apartment on the continent. He headed for the sun as pressure grew for him to be interviewed by the PSNI.
We also learned that through his solicitor the priest recently informed the PSNI he was suffering from an undisclosed ailment and was receiving treatment in a clinic.
A solicitor acting for the cleric told The Sunday World yesterday that his client wasn't well enough to return to Belfast at the moment.
"We have been in constant communication with the PSNI over this matter, including the police with detailed medical information, he said".
"We are keen to progress this matter as soon as possible - if and when my client is well enough to travel".
The priest's name is still registered on a diocesan website as a serving priest. In a calling which lasted over 50 years, he served in parishes across a number of counties and in various parts of Belfast.
In 2016 a local bishop arrived unannounced at the house where the priest was staying. He was accompanied by a Canon Lawyer in the Catholic Church.
Following a heated row, the ex-parish priest collected his belongings and left, never to return. A substitute curate took over his Easter duties.
For a while, the priest lived at a Church linked residential home - but he soon left for mainland Europe where he has the use of an apartment.
In a major development this week an officer from the PSNI Care Unit informed the priest's solicitor that if his client doesn't return then investigating officers will travel to Europe to speak to him.
And if necessary they will also begin extradition proceedings to bring him back to Belfast.
In an interview with The Sunday World this week, another woman said she made a formal complaint to the police in regard to the priest nine months ago.
She alleged he sexually molested her twice when she was 11. At the same time, the mother of three also notified the Catholic Church.
And she immediately assigned the services of a social worker specialising in trauma as the result of sexual abuse. Church officials also arranged counselling sessions for her at the Good Shepherd Family Centre on Belfast's Ormeau Road.
The woman claimed she was sexually assaulted in a Parochial House after earlier asking her and her friend to run an errand. The priest approached the girls, she said, as they made their way through the church grounds.
According to the woman the second and more serious assault allegedly took place in the hallway of the property. It happened, she claimed, as the priest instructed the other girl to leave.
The alleged victim further claimed that he gave each of the girls a present of a small Catholic Mass missal. And when she got home her mother witnessed her ripping out pages and throwing them into the coal fire.
Despite being highly traumatised by the experience, she never told anyone. But five years later - when she was 16 - she plucked up the courage to tell her mother after she refused to take a Mass Card to the Parochial House. And later the same evening, she also informed her father.
Through their parish priest, she claims, he parents were able to arrange a meeting with the then bishop of Down and Connor Patrick Walsh.
They say that after listening intently, as they disclosed the details of their daughter's alleged ordeal, the bishop blessed them both, but little was done about the allegations at the time.
Within in days, he was moved to another parish outside Belfast.
But last night - the complainant - who asked to remain anonymous - expressed anger and frustration at the lack of progress in the case.
"I'm well aware that this is a historic case. But there were good reasons
why I never went to the police before. she said.
"But I always intended to make the complaint when I was ready", she said. This took its toll on me and my relationships with my family and friends and now I need it dealt with.
"I recently told my children what had happened to me. I asked for their support in seeing this through and they are fully behind me".
"I plucked up the courage to go to the police and also to go to the Church, but this isn't going anywhere at the moment. Nine months is too long to wait", she said.
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