THERE have been some mixed messages over the future of Grafton Catholic Priest Father Rex Hackett.
Angry parishioners brandished placards and quizzed the Bishop of the Diocese of Lismore, Geoffrey Jarrett, about Fr Rex's future during services at St Mary's Church on Saturday night and Sunday.
Yesterday the diocese issued a short release saying Fr Rex was on leave, but would stay as the parish priest of the Grafton Parish. The release gave no indication when he would return.
However, a number of parishioners are not satisfied with this explanation.
Peter Dougherty questioned the bishop about the popular priest's future during Saturday night's service.
"The bishop said Rex was on leave, but didn't say when he might be back. Is it this Christmas or next?" said Mr Dougherty.
He said Fr Rex had recently returned from leave and it was a surprise he was not taking services during the past week.
Mr Dougherty said if Fr Rex was on leave, he had cleared out his unit before going.
He described Fr Rex as one of the most popular priests to have served Grafton's Catholic parish.
"He grew up here and has many links to the community," Mr Dougherty said.
"I asked the congregation if they supported Fr Rex.
"If there were 200 there, 199 had their hands up."
Another parishioner, Robin Gipp, was worried the effect the controversy would have on Fr Rex's reputation.
"What is it that's causing the problem," Mr Gipp said.
"What's going on? We have a right to know."