Press secretary to Cardinal Winning

Born: December 6, 1956;

Died: June 1, 2015

Father Noel Barry, who has died of cancer aged 58, was press secretary to the late Cardinal Thomas J Winning in the Archdiocese of Glasgow during a turbulent time for the Catholic Church in Scotland.

He was also a director and managing editor of Flourish, the official archdiocesan journal, whose columnists included Alex Salmond and the controversial MP George Galloway.

The newspaper was launched by the cardinal in anticipation of the hugely successful visit by Pope Saint John Paul II to Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1982.

Despite the boost from the papal events at Bellahouston and Murrayfield during that decade, the Church in Scotland faced the media spotlight over a number of turbulent episodes.

These included a crisis in relation to vocations to the priesthood which rose immediately post the papal visit before dropping dramatically.

The largest and most important seminary, the architectural award winning St Peter's College, Cardross, had been closed in 1980 and was replaced by smaller units which were later also to face closure as priest training moved to Ireland, Italy and Spain.

In December 1994, Father Barry was involved in defending the angry reaction in many quarters to Cardinal Winning's statement that the church should not report alleged paedophile priests to the police.

Dr Winning's assertion, which conflicted with tough guidelines on sexual abuse adopted by Catholic leaders in England, Wales and Ireland, was condemned as "misguided and highly damaging".

Cardinal Winning insisted that in Scotland the church's role was different. It was up to the victim, not the clergy, to inform the authorities of criminal allegations, he said.

Father Barry told the media Church leaders had decided to convene a working party and this showed they were treating the issue of abuse "with the utmost seriousness" but it was "too early" to draw up new policies.

He said: "This is such a new area. What we have to deal with at the moment are essentially stale cases. But the group will be high-powered and will make recommendations."

Ironically it was a tabloid newspaper sex scandal followed by a widely publicised defamation action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh that led to Father Barry's own fall from grace.

Until then he was widely perceived to be one of the rising stars in the Church in Scotland and destined to become a bishop. He was given a prosperous middle class parish, St Joseph's, Milngavie, and was named Vicar Episcopal for Communications. One description of him at the time said he was "one of the most prominent figures in the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland".

Unfortunately that reference was contained in an article which said he was set to be stripped of his high-profile role as Cardinal Winning's spokesman and speech writer despite eventually winning his libel victory against the Sun.

That did not happen immediately after the court case in which he was awarded damages of £45,000 when a jury found he had been libelled.

The allegations that he had conducted a sexual relationship with a Glasgow head teacher were deemed to be unfounded. The woman was awarded £120,000 by the judge.

It was not the allegations themselves that led to Father Barry being given leave from his priestly duties but the fact that during evidence the priest himself admitted he was in love with another woman, a former nun. He admitted that they had shared a room together over two days at a hotel in Preston, Lancashire, although he denied having sex with her.

The court heard that when the woman, who later married and became a mother of two, asked Dr Winning for assistance to protect her family's privacy at the time of the libel suit his response had been unsympathetic.

Three years had elapsed between the publication of the allegations and the court case and in 1999, Father Barry, who was then 42, applied for and was granted indefinite leave from his post at St Joseph's, Milngavie.

Many of his congregation were in tears that day and one man said: "We are all human and fall by the wayside, but Father Barry has done a lot for the parish."

Cardinal Winning described Father Barry as ''a man of good standing'' and dismissed as ''rubbish'' stories that he had sacked his press secretary

Clearly distressed, Father Barry told parishioners: ''The past year has been the most exhausting of my life. More and more, I've felt the need to regain my energies - physically, mentally, and spiritually."

Father Barry was a caring and well-loved parish priest and his parishioners at Lambhill posted messages of shock and regret at his death on social media.

Father Barry, who resumed his priestly duties in 2002, was born in Cork in Ireland and ordained to the priesthood in his home city by Bishop Charles Renfrew in 1981.

He had attended St Peter's College, Cardross, and Newlands, Glasgow, and the Royal Scots College in Valladolid, Spain, and completed a spell as a deacon at St Peter's, Bellsmyre, and Dumbarton.

He also held posts at The Holy Family and St Ninian's church in Kirkintilloch, and later in Milngavie where he had moved from St Ninian's, Knightswood.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia has urged Catholics to pray for the repose of the soul of Father Barry, who was finally parish priest of St Agnes', Lambhill, and who died in the Beatson Oncology Unit on Monday.

Archbishop Tartaglia said: "For the last 13 years, Fr Noel Barry has been a dedicated and much appreciated parish priest of St Agnes'.

"For the last few years, he has fought a remarkably courageous battle against an aggressive cancer.

"During that time, and even while undergoing complex treatment, he never once asked to be relieved of his duties.

"I saw him a few days before he died, and, to the very end, he just wanted to get back to his parish. May he rest in peace."

A vigil for Father Barry will take place in St Agnes R.C. Church, Lambhill, on Wednesday, 10th June at 7pm. Requiem Mass in St Agnes R.C. Church, on Thursday, 11th June at 11.30am with burial thereafter in Cadder Cemetery.