Church of Ireland leader to retire early next year
Dr Richard Clarke, who has been outspoken on a range of issues, announces retirement
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Dr Richard Clarke has announced he intends to retire. File photograph: Dave Meehan
Dr Clarke (70) has served as a bishop in the Church of Ireland for 23 years.
He served as bishop of Meath and Kildare from 1996 to 2012, before being elected as Archbishop of Armagh in October 2012 and enthroned in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Co Armagh, in December of that year.
Speaking during his presidential address to the Armagh Diocesan Synod on Saturday, Dr Clarke said that when he took up the role in 2012, he made a “quiet agreement” with family and friends that he would work as primate for five years.
“Coming towards the end of that five-year period, I would then review the situation with my family and, if all seemed to be working out reasonably well and I felt that I was still ‘up for it’, I would continue on for a further two years, but would not go on beyond that point. This latter moment in time has now arrived,” he said.
He expressed his gratitude to the diocese and others throughout the Church of Ireland for their support during his tenure as archbishop.
“This time in Armagh has truly been a very agreeable experience for me, and for this I humbly thank God for the great privilege I was given in being appointed as primate seven years ago, and I also thank all of you for your constant encouragement, your friendship, your prayers, your support and your patience,” he said.
Dr Clarke will continue to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Armagh and the primate until February 2nd, 2020.
After that date, the Church of Ireland House of Bishops will consider the selection of a successor.
The archbishop remarked that he had chosen February 2nd – the Feast of the Presentation of Christ at the Temple – as the date on which to conclude his duties because the festival “marks a conclusion, but also a vantage point into the future”.
The archbishop has previously been outspoken on issues to do with migration, historical abuse in the church, and politics in Northern Ireland.
Speaking earlier this year about the Stormont impasse, Dr Clarke said: “If we leave a vacuum there will be forces that walk into that vacuum and they will be forces of evil, almost certainly.”