.- A Catholic bishop on Sunday blessed an unmarked mass grave in Belfast which had been inadvertently leased out. Unbaptized babies and those who had committed suicide had been buried on the land.
Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor consecrated the grassy plot of land in the Bog Meadows, adjacent to Milltown cemetery.
The land had been transferred to the Ulster Wildlife Trust nine years ago, the Belfast Telegraph reports. Church officials are in the process of reclaiming the property.
"The church is desirous and happy to undo any errors, to honor the memory of these children, to recognize the grief of the parents, not only in the loss of their children but in their sense the neglect of those children by the community by the church," Bishop Treanor said.
"As of October of last year, the diocese went actively about reacquiring this part of the graveyard."
The grave was used between the 1940s and the early 1980s to bury stillborn babies or unbaptized infants. Church rules at the time forbade their bodies from being buried in sanctified ground.
Those who committed suicide are also believed to have been laid to rest there.
A move to lease the land resulted in an outcry from relatives of the buried. Family members held demonstrations at the site calling for action.
The Church commissioned an archeological survey of the land to establish whether human remains were buried there. In April the Church confirmed the land contained unmarked graves and apologized for the hurt and distress caused to the affected families.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, Bishop Treanor said the Church’s original decision to lease the land had been made in good faith.
He added that a memorial would be erected to those buried in the land.