Auxiliary bishop stepping down due to ill health
The auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh is to retire on the grounds of ill health, the Catholic Church has announced.
Most Reverend Gerard Clifford said he made the decision to stand down with "great sadness" based on medical advice he has been receiving for a number of months.
Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady, paid tribute to the 71-year-old who has been an auxiliary bishop for 21 years.
"I understand and support the decision of Bishop Gerard Clifford to retire due to ill health. Now that his resignation has been accepted by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, I am pleased for Bishop Clifford's own sake and for his health," he said.
"However, I genuinely regret the retirement of Bishop Clifford and his loyal, faithful and outstanding support at all times since my own appointment to the Archdiocese of Armagh in 1995. At a personal level I greatly appreciate his warmth, wisdom and compassion and I look forward to our continued friendship over the years ahead."
Bishop Clifford thanked the people of the diocese.
"I have received great warmth and affection throughout my ministry from the people of the diocese. I thank them for their support in my 21 years," he said.
"I look forward to continuing my pastoral work in collaboration and with the support of the bishops, priests and lay people of the archdiocese."