A parish priest in the border diocese of Kilmore has voluntarily stepped aside while an allegation that he sexually abused a child is investigated.

Announcing the move on the diocesan website, Bishop Leo O'Reilly said the civil authorities had been informed of the complaint, which relates to events alleged to have taken place a considerable time ago.

He said the priest's decision was in accordance with diocesan child safeguarding procedures.

Saturday evening mass-goers in the affected parish were first to learn of the developments when other clergy read a statement from Dr O'Reilly from the altar.

In it, he said he deeply regretted to inform the congregation that he had received the complaint against their parish priest.

He also announced that the priest had voluntarily agreed to take administrative leave.

Dr O'Reilly stressed that the accused cleric enjoys the right to the presumption of innocence while the complaint is being investigated.

He cautioned that such investigations can take a considerable time to complete and named an acting parish priest pending the outcome.

Finally, he asked for God's help and blessings for all concerned.

A spokesperson for the Catholic bishops said that under recently-adopted guidelines on leave from ministry, the church would not be commenting further on the identity of the priest.