Missing bishop is linked to divorcee

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The Roman Catholic Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, who vanished from his house a week ago today, was yesterday being linked by newspaper reports to a divorced mother-of-three.

Cathy Macphee, an auxiliary nurse, is understood to have hurriedly left her home in Inverlochy, Fort William, at about the same time that the Right Rev Roderick Wright disappeared from his diocese. Mrs Macphee, 40, became a friend of Bishop Wright and received counselling from him during the breakdown of her marriage, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Prayers were said for the bishop at masses yesterday. The theme of forgiveness was central to Mass at his own cathedral, St Columba's, in Oban. In his homily, Fr Sean MacAulay told parishioners: "God's forgiveness is limitless. He forgives us not 7 or 77 times, but always." As he introduced the bidding prayers, he said that it was "in the spirit of forgiveness that we offer our prayers and support for Bishop Roddie".

The Princess of Wales's mother, Frances Shand-Kydd, 60, a Roman Catholic convert, has publicly supported the bishop, who has been a friend for six years. Although she spoke to the bishop 11 days ago, she has refused to reveal whether she knows the reason for his disappearance.

Hugh Farmer, editor of the weekly Scottish Catholic Observer, said yesterday that he was shocked by church spokesmen's comments which gave credence to rumours that the bishop's disappearance was linked to a divorcee. Mr Farmer added that if, however, the rumours were true then the church would be sad, but would not condemn.

The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh Keith O'Brien is likely to take over the diocese today if Bishop Wright - due to attend the quarterly meeting of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland in Glasgow tomorrow - does not return.