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Bishop of Connor planning to retire after completing cancer treatment

Bishop Alan Abernethy is retiring on medical grounds
Bishop Alan Abernethy is retiring on medical grounds
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

The Bishop of Connor has announced with a "very heavy heart and spirit" that he is to retire on health grounds.

The Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, who has been bishop for more than 12 years, said he took the difficult decision following medical advice.

The 62-year-old was diagnosed with prostate cancer during a sabbatical in 2018.

His treatment began early in November, and he has taken part in a clinical trial, knowing this may help others in the future. Bishop Abernethy announced his retirement on the day he had his final session of treatment.

He said it had been an "amazing privilege and joy" to have served Connor as its bishop.

In a statement he said the past 12 months had been "exhausting" and that it had been difficult to focus on anything other than his treatment plan. I have just received my last proton injection as part of the clinical trial and this stage of the journey is complete. I now need time to recover and regain my strength and energy. Having advanced prostate cancer means that I will be receiving quarterly hormone injections for the rest of my life and will have regular check-ups with my oncologist. There are no guarantees, but it is hoped that I will be free of further treatment for years to come."

The bishop said he and his family were incredibly grateful for "amazing care and support" they received from the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital.

"We are also conscious that we have been carried by the love and prayers of so many people, especially the people of Connor Diocese. I cannot thank you all enough for your faithfulness and care in praying for me and my family," the bishop said.

"My family have been amazing in love and support and they have also been carrying their own hopes and fears. We have also been very blessed by the peace and joy we have experienced, as Jesus has clearly journeyed with us on this strange and unwelcome journey. He has been with us, giving us hope and healing."

Bishop Abernethy said that following a number of conversations with his oncologist, his GP and his family, "with a very heavy heart and spirit, it has become clear to me that for the sake of the diocese and my own long-term health, I should retire on health grounds".

He will retire on December 31. "At this stage, my aim is to be in St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, on Christmas Eve and in Lisburn Cathedral on Christmas Day. This will let me fulfil my ministry once more before I retire."

The bishop concluded: "It has been an amazing privilege and joy to have served you as bishop."

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