The Diocese of Down and Connor has welcomed back a priest who left ministry in 1973 to be married.
In a ceremony on the fourth Sunday of Advent at the weekend, Bishop Noel Treanor officiated at the re-admission of Fr Michael McConville, almost 50 years after his original ordination in 1961.
Having studied for the priesthood in St Patrick's College, Carlow, Fr Michael ministered in Down and Connor for 12 years before applying to leave in order to marry Imelda Byrne, which he did in 1975, having three children in the years to Imelda's death in 1981.
Very actively involved in his parish and diocese in the intervening years, including the annual Lourdes pilgrimage as a volunteer with the Brancardier team, Michael's application to re-enter ministry was made possible through a petition for priestly reintegration presented by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and which was approved by Pope Benedict.
In the interim, Michael assisted in pastoral work at St Patrick's parish in Belfast and engaged with a formation course at All Hallows in Dublin.
Leading the ceremony for Fr Michael at the Oratory of Nazareth Care Village in Belfast, Bishop Treanor said: ''I rejoice at Michael McConville's decision. I wish him many years of fruitful service in the Diocese, every happiness and blessing in his ministry.''