Richard Clarke elected as Church of Ireland primate

[Church of Ireland] The Most Rev. Richard Clarke, bishop of Meath and Kildare, has been elected archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland by the House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland, following the retirement of Archbishop Alan Harper on Sept. 30.

Making the announcement in St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, Clarke said: “I would like first to express my sincere gratitude for the huge trust that my fellow-bishops have placed in me by appointing me to the Archbishopric of Armagh. I truly feel neither worthy of the heritage into which I am to enter nor adequate for the tasks that lie ahead. The God of Christian belief is, however, a God of grace rather than a god who looks for human self-sufficiency. All I can pledge is that I will give this task the very best of which I am capable, and the prayer of all of us must be that God in his grace will enable some good to come from this.”

He continued, “I know that my friends of Meath and Kildare will not need convincing that I will be deeply saddened to leave them after sixteen years of happiness and fulfillment among them, but I know also that I will remain in their prayers and retain their love and friendship. I thank them for all the generosity, kindness and support that they have given to me and to my family over those years.

“I look forward to fresh challenges and joys, along with new friendships and discoveries, in the phase of ministry in the Gospel that now lies ahead, both in the Diocese of Armagh and within the wider fellowship of the Church of Ireland and beyond. Please pray for the Church of Ireland and for me in these weeks ahead as I prepare to take up this new responsibility.”

The House of Bishops also decided that his election would take effect from Dec. 15, 2012 which will be the date of the bishop’s translation and enthronement in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. In the meantime, the Venerable Raymond Hoey, archdeacon of Armagh, will carry the diocesan responsibilities for the Diocese of Armagh. The provincial responsibilities are carried by the archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev. Michael Jackson, until this date.

A former dean of residence in Trinity College Dublin, rector of Bandon in west Cork, and dean of St. Finbarre’s Cathedral Cork, Clarke has been bishop of Meath and Kildare since 1996. He lists his interests and hobbies as “reading, music (classical and early jazz), travel, attempting to keep fit, and sport – albeit now entirely as a spectator.”

Born in Dublin in 1949, Clarke studied history and theology in Dublin and London Universities respectively, and holds a doctorate from the former. Although he retains research interests principally in the field of history, and has contributed to a number of journals in this area, he has in recent years become fascinated also by philosophical theology and the relationship between literature and theology, and his book in this field of interest, And Is It True?, was published by Dominican Publications in 2000. Since then he has written on aspects of social theology in relation to Ireland, including a number of articles and a further book, A Whisper of God, published by Columba Press in 2006. At present he is the president of the Irish Council of Churches and co-chair (with Roman Catholic Cardinal Séan Brady) of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting.

The archbishop-designate is 63 years old; his wife, Linda, died in 2009. He has two adult children and one grandson. Upon taking up his responsibilities as archbishop of Armagh, Clarke will be the 105th in the succession of abbots, bishops and archbishops of Armagh since St. Patrick.

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