Belfast seminary set up in 1833 calls halt to training of priests
St Malachy's Seminary in Belfast has announced it will no longer be training men for the priesthood after 185 years.
The Catholic Down and Connor diocese said the closure was "a sad moment for all".
It explained that the closure of the Department of Scholastic Philosophy at Queen's University, where seminarians studied, and a gradual reduction of relevant modules at Queen's, had "placed a great strain" on its ability to train clerical students.
After a consultation, it has now been decided St Malachy's will cease taking students for the priesthood.
Seminarians will be relocated elsewhere in order to continue their training.
The diocese said that in making the decision, the team had focused on the best interests of their current seminarians.
Thanking the formation team led by Fr Michael Spence, the diocese also praised the "huge contribution" of diocesan priests and the Jesuit community in Belfast.
Despite the disappointment, the diocese added there was much satisfaction with the achievements of the seminary over the years.
The seminary on the Cliftonville Road will continue to be used for various diocesan purposes and services.
St Malachy's was founded in 1833 to provide both Catholic education for children in Belfast and to become the local seminary.
When Queen's University was founded in 1908, with the Department of Scholastic Philosophy opening the following year, clerical students were also able to enrol to take degree programmes.
Past students at St Malachy's include former Manchester United, Norwich City and Northern Ireland football player Philip Mulryne.
The Belfast man won 27 caps.
He entered St Malachy's in 2009 after his career finished.
When the seminary first partnered with Queen's, the tradition was established for students to stay in the diocesan seminary at St Malachy's College on the Antrim Road.
In 1978 a purpose-built residence was constructed next door for students.
They stayed there until the move to the present site at the Poor Clare monastery on the Cliftonville Road in 2013.