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Obituary: Samuel Poyntz, a Bishop of courage and vigour

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Bishop Samuel Poyntz, who was one of the best-known senior clerics in the Church of Ireland on the island, has died. He was 91.

Sam Poyntz was a voluble, jovial and popular figure, who showed considerable dedication in moving in 1987 from the comparative peace of the Diocese of Cork, where he was Bishop, to a troubled Belfast.

He was Bishop of Connor from 1987 until his retirement in 1995, having served for almost 45 years in the ministry. During his time in Belfast he made his presence felt, and he played an important role in cross-community and ecumenical developments.

In retirement he continued to contribute to the Church of Ireland Gazette as a prolific book reviewer and occasional commentator on ecclesiastical developments.

Paying tribute, Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Richard Clarke, said it was with real sadness he learned of the death of Bishop Poyntz, whom he had known most closely when he was a rector in Cork at a time when he was Bishop.

"He was a decisive, practical and vigorous Christian leader, but also someone who was deeply caring and supportive of his clergy - in short, a great Bishop," he said.

"He was also a person of huge courage and fortitude, virtues which he demonstrated to the full during very difficult times in Northern Ireland. But these were also qualities which he used throughout his long and fulfilled life, for the good of the life and witness of the Church of Ireland."

Samuel Greenfield Poyntz was born in 1926, and educated at Trinity College Dublin. He began his ministry in the Dublin and Glendalough Dioceses, and later served a number of roles in Dublin, before becoming Archdeacon there in 1974.

After four years in that post, he became Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross in 1978, and nine years later he transferred to Belfast.

Bishop Poyntz made several important contributions to Church life.

In 1969 his private member's motion led to the development of the Bishops' Appeal for the Church of Ireland, and he was convenor from 1971-74.

He was vice-chair of the British Council of Churches from 1986-90, and he led an Irish delegation to the first European Ecumenical Conference in Lausanne.

He subsequently made ecumenical visits to East and West Germany, Austria and France, led an Irish inter-Church delegation to Russia in 1987, and a British Council of Churches delegation to Israel and the occupied territories in 1989.

That year he ordained the first two women to become ministers in the Church of Ireland.

Bishop Poyntz is survived by Noreen, his wife of 65 years, and by his children Jennifer, Timothy and Stephanie.

There will be a private family funeral later this week, and a thanksgiving service will be held in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin on Saturday, February 25 at 11.30am.

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