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Estranged priest removed from Sydney parish

The congregation of St Vincent's Parish, Redfern, has won the removal of its priest on the grounds he was estranged from parishioners.

Parishioners alleged Fr Peter Carroll's behaviour during his eight-month appointment, which included trying to remove Aborigines hanging around the church, had alienated him from the largely indigenous congregation.

A priest temporarily filling in yesterday at St Vincent's read a letter by written by Fr Robert Irwin, Provincial of his Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) congregation.

It said Fr Carroll had been removed "as of now" because he had "been placed in an intolerable position that is most unreasonable for any parish priest".

"The archdiocese regretfully yet graciously understands the situation and the shortness of notice," the letter said. "I apologise to those members of the Redfern Catholic community who stood by Peter during these times.

"The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart do not have the personnel to replace Fr Peter."

Churchgoers yesterday were relieved at the development, but the tight-knit group, including Aboriginal Medical Service head Naomi Mayers and the first Aboriginal judge, Robert Bellear, said the MSC put the blame in the wrong place.

"This community has bent over backwards to find some common ground with Peter Carroll right from the moment he got here," parishioner Jack Callaghan said in an address to the congregation.

St Vincent's has the largest indigenous congregation in the country and a 30-year tradition of Aboriginal activism supported by parish priest of 30 years (until 2001) Fr Ted Kennedy.

Archbishop George Pell is expected to appoint a new parish priest.

The Australian (payment required)

Message to the St Vincent's Catholic Parish Community, Redfern (Fr Bob Irwin MSC, Provincial, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
Congregation rejects priest's disruption of Aboriginal ministry (19/5/03)
Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, Redfern
Pope's message of support for Sydney aboriginal medical centre (7/1/02)
Thou shalt not covet: a frail fighter puts his plea to the Pope (SMH 3/12/01)
Australia: Confessions of a dying priest. Our savage moment of truth
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
Archdiocese of Sydney | St Vincent de Paul Church

26 May 2003