A spokesman for the Vatican has confirmed that Pope John Paul II has dismissed two priests of the Ferns Diocese in Co Wexford from the clerical state.

The official in the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would not name the two priests concerned, but said they had been convicted by the civil courts of child abuse.

Fr Donal Collins was a given a four-year sentence with three years suspended in 1998 for indecent assault and gross indecency against teenage boys.

In 1990 Fr James Doyle was convicted of indecent assault on a teenage boy and given a suspended sentence of one year.

At Easter 2002, Bishop Brendan Comiskey resigned as Bishop of Ferns because of his handling of child abuse allegations against the late Fr Sean Fortune.

The Vatican spokesman said that the Vatican would not comment on individual cases.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One programme this afternoon, President of the National Conference of Priests in Ireland, Fr John Littleton, welcomed the Vatican's decision.

Fr Littleton said it was a good disciplinary measure and a good means to protect children, although it was not the first time that priests have been discharged from the clerical state.