A senior clergyman who was suspended from his cathedral duties over an alleged affair has now admitted he is in a relationship with a farmer’s wife – who he counselled following the breakdown of her marriage.
The Very Reverend Dr Chris Hardwick, 53, Dean of Truro Cathedral in Cornwall, helped mum-of-three Sarah Sainsbury when she turned to the church for guidance.
Father-of-two Rev Hardwick told officials he was planning to leave his music teacher wife Linda but denied anyone else was involved.
But church leaders suspended him from all his duties as Dean last April after they discovered he had been ”involved” with Mrs Sainsbury, 37.
He has been on sabbatical leave since October, in which time his relationship with the mother-of-three has ”blossomed”, he revealed yesterday.
Rev Hardwick, who became one of the country’s youngest-ever cathedral deans at the age of 47, has now admitted the affair and says he is ”in love”.
In a personal statement, the former banker, who sits on The Church Commissioners for England board, said the couple’s relationship had ”grown”.
He said: ”After many years of unhappiness in my marriage and following a difficult and very public divorce, I am currently on leave from my duties at the cathedral, with the blessing of the bishop.
”I divorced my wife last year and my Decree Absolute was granted in September 2010.
”This was a personal and private matter for us both to resolve. Since then my friendship with Sarah Sainsbury, who is also divorced, has grown.
”Sarah was not the cause of the breakdown in my marriage and over the last five months our friendship has evolved into a close relationship which we are sharing openly and appropriately.
”Naturally, we will be seen together in public and I would hope that many people would find some cause for celebration and joy, as our friends have, when two people begin to discover mutual love and happiness together.
”We would request that people respect our privacy.”
Dr Hardwick, dean of the cathedral since 2005, was suspended in April last year following concerns about the nature of his involvement with Mrs Sainsbury.
He said at the time: ”Sarah is not the cause of the breakdown or difficulties in my marriage, which go back for a number of years.
”Although we have spent time together as friends, nothing of an intimate, physical nature has ever happened between us.”
David Watson, spokesman for the Diocese of Truro, said parishioners were informed in October that Dr Hardwick was going on leave.
He added the Dean was now in talks with The Bishop of Truro, The Right Rev Tim Thornton, over his future.
He said: ”The dean of Truro, The Very Rev Dr Christopher Hardwick, has been on leave since last October.
”The day-to-day running of the cathedral continues under the care of the Cathedral Chapter. The dean has been in discussion with Bishop Tim as to his future.”
Mrs Sainsbury had links with the cathedral where she ran a church group for youngsters.
Rev Hardwick spent 15 years in banking before becoming a church reader in 1987 and had shared a deanery home in Truro with his wife and teenage children.