Child porn vicar is sacked

Parisioners at a Leyland church are looking to the future after their disgraced vicar was sacked.

It is business as usual over Easter at St Ambrose Church as the congregation works to put the past behind them.

The church, in Moss Lane, hit the headlines when its vicar, Paul Battersby, was charged with possessing child porn images on his laptop.

One of the images showed a 10-year-old girl being raped by her father.

He has now been dismissed by the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, after he was sentenced to 34 weeks in jail, suspended for two years, at Preston Crown Court.

Now the parish has begun the process of finding a new vicar after almost 12 months without one.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Blackburn said: "The parish will draw up a recipe for the kind of person they are seeking. This process can now go ahead.

"But it could take months, or even a year to find the right person."

Services at the church in Moss Lane have been officiated by a range of visiting priests and this will continue while the search goes on for a permanent replacement.

But the church took part in the annual walk of witness through Leyland today and services will be held at 8.30am, 10.30am and 6.30pm on Sunday.

One member of the congregation, who asked not to be named, said: "Everything must carry on and we are all doing our best."

The diocesan spokesman added: "Paul Battersby is no longer the parish priest at St Ambrose and now the process will begin to find a new one.

"In the mean time, the parish will continue to be cared for by the Blackburn Diocese."

The Rt Rev Reade said in a statement: "Paul Battersby is no longer exercising a ministry in the Church of England.

"It is clear that a priest receiving a prison sentence, whether suspended or immediate, will be removed from office for life."

Battersby has 28 days to appeal.