Cardinal to quiz priest over links to cult 'prophet'

Achill Island, Ireland - Cardinal Sean Brady has intervened in the ongoing controversy over the House of Prayer after receiving complaints about the role of a parish priest in the movement.

The Primate of All-Ireland is holding "ongoing discussions" with Fr Gerard McGinnity, a parish priest in Co Louth, credited with being spiritual director to its founder -- self-styled prophet, Christina Gallagher.

The role of the priest was questioned by former followers of Ms Gallagher. They claim his involvement lends credence to Achill Island-based House of Prayer, which was disowned by the Catholic hierarchy two weeks ago.

Fr McGinnity reportedly helped raise donations for the centre, which built an international following on foot of Ms Gallagher's claim to prophetic visions and divine messages from the Virgin Mary.

The House of Prayer -- which offers solace and eternal life to the thousands of pilgrims who flock to Achill each year -- has come under intense scrutiny over its financial dealings.

The Sunday World has alleged Ms Gallagher amassed vast wealth as a result of her prophetic work, claims which her supporters deny.

The Sunday Independent has learned that several people who donated money to the centre have contacted the Archdiocese of Tuam, which covers Achill, to discuss concerns about past donations. In a statement, the diocese confirmed this and urged "those with concerns (about donations) to contact the statutory authorities."

Gardai have made discreet inquiries, but there have been no formal complaints against Ms Gallagher's movement. The Revenue Commissioners removed the movement's charitable status two years ago, which leaves the organisation liable for gift tax on donations.

Fr McGinnity, a parish priest in Knockbridge, has been associated with Ms Gallagher for several years. He publicly defended her after a series of articles claimed, amongst other allegations, that she was living in a €4m mansion in Malahide in North Dublin.

Cardinal Brady was asked to intervene by a number of former supporters of Ms Gallagher's, who wrote to him in recent weeks expressing concern over Fr McGinnity's endorsement of the House of Prayer.

The cardinal was also given a "dossier" of incidents alleged to have occurred at the centre compiled by former supporters.

A statement issued by Cardinal Brady's office on Friday said he has been "involved in ongoing discussions with Fr McGinnity regarding his involvement with the House of Prayer in Achill."

Messages left on Fr McGinnity's answering machine were not returned.

One former supporter of the centre, Michael McCrory, has led the inquiries into the House of Prayer's financial dealings, according to an article in the Irish Catholic this weekend.

According to the magazine, he approached the publication last year with allegations of sexual impropriety amongst some followers of the House of Prayer. When he raised the matter with Christina Gallagher and Fr Gerard McGinnity, he claimed he was banned from the centre. He subsequently began highlighting the House of Prayer's financial dealings.

Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, issued a highly critical statement saying the House of Prayer was acting without Church authority.