THE husband of a former Bury Council leader and leaders of a Bury Catholic church have become embroiled in a war of words over the politician’s funeral.

Ian Hargreaves was married to Mike Connolly, the ex-council leader, who died last week aged 70.

He claims St Marie and St Joseph’s RC Church in Bury refused to sanction the funeral of Mr Connolly, who had been a member there for some time, because of his sexuality.

But church officials have denied the allegation and say they are keen to offer support to Mr Hargreaves, who has since made arrangements for the funeral to take place at Bury Parish Church.

Mr Hargreaves told the Bury Times: “I feel very let down by the church. If some people do not believe in gay marriage, then that’s fine because I have my beliefs and they have theirs, and must accept mine as I accept theirs and we must all live together in harmony.”

“I’ve had enough homophobic abuse in my time but I was absolutely over the moon when Bury Parish Church agreed to host his funeral.”

On his late husband, he added: “Michael was always my rock, the only person to show me true affection. We loved each other so much and he loved Bury.”

Mr Hargreaves was Mr Connolly’s consort during his mayoral year in 2016-17.

Representatives of Salford RC Diocese, which oversees St Marie and St Joseph’s, have denied his claims and say they have held funerals for gay members of the public before.

A diocese spokesman said: “We are very sorry to hear of the death of Mike Connolly and our prayers are with his family. At no stage was there a refusal for his funeral to take place within one of our churches.

“The Parish Priest requested that he have a conversation with the family as to how the funeral would be approached. This is standard practice for high profile and large funerals.

“Our Bishop, John Arnold, advocates our diocese and the whole Church welcomes everyone, a view shared with Pope Francis. We will be following up privately with the family as to how we continue to support them during this difficult time.”