Belfast Telegraph

Clarke to step down as head of Church of Ireland at 70

Richard Clarke (right) with Prince Charles and Catholic Primate Eamon Martin in Armagh earlier this year
Richard Clarke (right) with Prince Charles and Catholic Primate Eamon Martin in Armagh earlier this year
Alf McCreary

By Alf McCreary

The Church of Ireland's most senior cleric has spoken of the "great privilege" of serving in the office after announcing that he is to step down.

Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Richard Clarke will retire in February.

Dr Clarke, who is 70, served earlier in his career as a curate in Holywood, Co Down, and has been Primate for seven years.

He was enthroned in St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh on December 12, 2012.

He told his Armagh Diocesan Synod on Saturday: "When I became Archbishop at the end of 2012, I made a quiet agreement with my family, a few close friends and myself that I would try to work on as Primate for five years, assuming that ill health or mortality would not intervene.

"Coming to the end of that five-year period, I intended to review the situation with my family and, if it 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 I would not go beyond that point. This latter moment has now arrived."

He thanked everyone for their support and said: "The time in Armagh has truly been a very agreeable experience for me, and I humbly thank God for the great privilege I was given in being appointed as Primate seven years ago."

The archbishop has two children and three grandchildren. His wife Linda died in 2009, just three years before he took up his post in Armagh.

He said that he had chosen February 2 as his retirement date as it marked the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. This festival, he added, "marks a conclusion, but also a vantage point into the future". Richard Lionel Clarke was born and grew up in Dublin. He was ordained in 1975, and was a curate in Holywood for the first three years of his ministry.

In a wide-ranging clerical career, he served in Dublin as a curate and dean of residence at Trinity College, before further service in Cork.

Earlier in his career, shortly after his graduation from Trinity, he taught English for a year in Iran in association with the Church Missionary Society.

He became Bishop of Meath and Kildare before coming to Armagh, and has served as a bishop for 23 years.

Archbishop Clarke will carry out all his duties until February 2, at which time the Church of Ireland will begin the process of appointing his successor.

The current Bishop of Clogher the Rt Rev John McDowell is viewed as a possible successor.

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