The new leader of the Church of Ireland has said that parishioners will have to dig deeper into their pockets as the church faces tough financial times.
The Church of Ireland yesterday elected the former Bishop of Meath and Kildare as the new Primate and Archbishop of Armagh.
Dr Richard Clarke (63) will take up his new post immediately, with his enthronement in mid-December, and is the 105th in the succession of abbots, bishops and archbishops of Armagh since St Patrick.
He told a Press conference at St Anne’s Cathedral that due to the recession, people would have to contribute more towards the church.
“There is no real choice,” he said. “Already we have frozen the stipends of the bishops and clergy, and we are doing with less. There is no point in asking people for greater giving and also for belt-tightening if we are not seen to be doing something ourselves.”
He added: “We are going to have to find a new generosity.”
One of the biggest problems he faces will be the issue of same-sex marriage.
He said: “The Church of Ireland teaches Christian marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not a radical on this but I don’t like labels like liberal or conservative. It is important to remember that when we talk about sexuality we are not talking about an issue but human beings.
“I think that in the Church of Ireland there is a willingness to find a way through this. My fear, however, is that there are people at both ends who feel that things are sorted and there is no further discussion to be had.”
Archbishop Clarke’s election follows the retirement of Archbishop Alan Harper at the end of last month.
The new primate said that he had only been told of his election 24 hours previously.
He said: “I am over-awed, and it is something that I would never have expected during the last phase of my ministry, but I am prepared to give it my very best shot.”
The new Archbishop is a Dubliner who began his ministry in Holywood, Co Down, in 1975.
He is seen as a pragmatist and as a leading ecumenist who will be well-suited to current changes and challenges within the church.
His appointment was welcomed by the Catholic Primate Cardinal Brady, the Presbyterian Moderator Dr Roy Patton and the Methodist President the Reverend Kenneth Lindsay.
Archbishop Richard Clarke has been Bishop of Meath and Kildare since 1996. He was born in Dublin in 1949 and educated at Dublin and London universities.
His wife Linda died some time ago and his adult children, Nicholas and Lindsey, are doctors.
He is a keen sports fan, particularly of rugby and cricket, and is a supporter of Arsenal FC.