Catholic Church legal action against News of the World

LONDON - The Catholic Church is considering legal action against the News of the World over an article concerning a meeting between auxillary Bishop of Southwark Howard Tripp and convicted paedophile and former priest Michael Hill.

Following publication earlier this month, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's newly appointed press secretary Mark Morley has now sent out a statement to the media on behalf of the Cardinal and Bishop Tripp denying details in the article. A solicitor's letter has also been sent to the News of the World.

The media statement said the Cardinal and Bishop Tripp had "raised through their solicitors a serious complaint of libel against the News of the World for its reporting of the meeting between Bishop Tripp and Michael Hill."

Although confirming the meeting at Belmarsh Prison on December 18 took place, the church denies certain details relating to Tripp and O'Connor and also questions the authenticity of an alleged recording of the meeting, a transcript of which has been sent by the paper to the church.

Morley said if the cardinal and the Bishop go ahead with libel action it will be the first case of its kind since the setting up of the church's comms directorate in 2001.

However, he added that a retraction is being asked for and the possibility of libel action has been left for the solicitors to consider.

News of the World PRO Hayley Barlow said: "The matter is being investigated and we will be responding to the lawyers' letter."

Morley is director of the communications function but was transferred to the role of Cardinal's press secretary on an interim basis earlier this month.

The move was made in a bid to improve the Cardinal's image following last year's paedophile scandal.

The Cardinal was accused of covering up the activities of paedophiles, an allegation he denies.

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