The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Dr Laurence Ryan, is to resign. The 70-year-old prelate's decision was announced in a letter to Mass goers in his diocese which includes County Carlow and parts of neighbouring counties. He did not specify why he was stepping down but it is understood the decision was made for health reasons. He is on holidays and unavailable for comment.

Dr Ryan underwent heart surgery shortly after being ordained a bishop 17 years ago. He is president of the hierarchy's commission for justice and peace, and led the team which planned the jubilee celebrations last year.