Hopes high that new Dean John Mann can heal hurt at St Anne's
The appointment of the Reverend Canon John Mann as Dean of Belfast has been described as "the right man in the right place at the right time".
The Bishop of Connor Alan Abernethy told the Belfast Telegraph last night that the new Dean "has an ability to draw people closer".
"He is a man of healing and of vision and he is also able to help people to develop that vision with him," said the Rt Rev Abernethy.
The appointment is seen in Church circles as an opportunity to draw a line under St Anne's Cathedral's recent troubles.
The cathedral experienced a prolonged and bitter row about its board's decision to abolish the post of music director.
One cathedral insider said: "There was a terrible atmosphere about the place a while back.
"But I hope that it will all be sorted out from now on.
"The new man will need great diplomacy to do that."
Another senior cleric said: "This is a good appointment.
"John Mann is very competent and also a decent fellow.
"He is quiet and gentle, but he is certainly no pushover."
However, one well-placed member of the Church of Ireland has expressed doubts if the rift in the cathedral could ever be fully healed. She did, however, add: "If anyone can bring this about, John Mann is the person who might be able to do it."
Another observer said: "He is not bullish in his approach nor does he seek a high profile, but he is widely-respected for his quiet strengths and he will bring a deep spirituality to his new post at the cathedral."
Canon Mann will also join a long line of 'Black Santas' who have raised huge sums for charity in the annual sit-out at St Anne's, and he has is looking forward very much to continuing the famous tradition.
"As Dean, I look forward to donning the black garb as the fourth in the line of clerical Santas come December this year," he said.
"These charitable collections fulfil a deep and real need and provide a lifeline for many." Canon Mann said St Anne's Cathedral is one of the "wonderful buildings of a city that I have come to love since arriving in Belfast as a raw undergraduate in 1973".
"Since then, through years of change and development and a great deal of suffering and division, we experience the vibrant life of a city whose heart beats through the hopes and dreams of a new generation," the new Dean added.
"It is such a great responsibility to be offered the chance to share in this new life, whilst the cathedral takes its part in carrying the pain that we know is the daily burden of many, as together a path is forged to find hope in a difficult economic climate."
Former railway worker Rev Canon John Mann was born in London and educated in Romford, and later at Queen's University and the Church of Ireland Theological College. He has a wide experience in the Church of Ireland as a curate and rector, and he also served as a rector in the Winchester Diocese in England before returning to Northern Ireland, where he has been the rector of St John's Malone since 2002.
He succeeds Dr Houston McKelvey. Mr Mann is married and has a daughter and son.