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Mary McAleese and a Jesuit Priest become Canons of Christ Church Cathedral

By Cian Molloy - 02 October, 2017

We need Lay Canons from the coal-face secular disciplines of politics and medicine; and Ecumenical Canons from the broad range of Christian and religious traditions.

The former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, and a Jesuit priest, Fr David Tuohy, were among the first four honorary canons to be appointed and installed to the chapter of the Church of Ireland’s Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin this weekend.

Last May, the Church of Ireland’s General Synod passed a bill to allow for the appointment of honorary canons as a means of giving recognition to ‘lay people who had given particular and distinguished service to cathedral or public life’ and that such appointments would reflect ‘the cathedral’s mission and ministry in the city amid a changing ecumenical culture’.

During choral evensong at the cathedral on Sunday afternoon, Dr McAleese and Trinity College Professor of Psychiatry Jim Lucey were installed as honorary lay canons and Fr Tuohy and Clontarf Presbyterian minister Rev Lorraine Kennedy-Ritchie were installed as honorary ecumenical canons.

“All four of them, first and foremost, represent themselves,” said the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson. “They represent the contribution they have made to life for others and with others, in a wide range of fields and over sustained periods of time. This has been both professional and personal. This has been by public duty and by personal conviction. Each and all of them can and do instruct us, inform us and inspire us in regard to what it is to live a life of service and leadership in contemporary Ireland.”

Archbishop Jackson continued, “One major dividing line that has opened up between church and society is that of the division between opinion and fact. Too often opinion seems to be enough, sufficient, adequate inside the church; opinion will not take you very far in the much more factual, operational world outside the church. For this reason among others, we need Lay Canons from the coal-face secular disciplines of politics and medicine; and Ecumenical Canons from the broad range of Christian and religious traditions, in this case the Roman Catholic and the Presbyterian traditions in a year when we commemorate Reformation 500. In this year we remember that the fulcrum of Reformed thinking and the responses to it in seventeenth century Europe were what some interestingly refer to as the Copernican Revolution of Martin Luther. Both the Jesuit and the Calvinist traditions are part of this fascinating and fast-moving story of political and ecclesiastical history. Their contemporary presence with us as Ecumenical Canons is an enrichment of our total understanding of ourselves and of our place in today’s Ireland.”

Born a Catholic in the Ardoyne district of north Belfast, Mary McAleese served two terms as President of the Republic of Ireland from 1997 to 2011, during which time she undertook several successful initiatives to ‘build bridges’ with Northern Ireland’s Protestant community. She caused consternation in some Catholic circles after she took communion at a service at Christ Church Cathedral in 1997. A notable milestone in her Presidency was that she invited Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who is also Supreme Governor of the Church of England, to make the first state visit by a British monarch to the Irish Republic in 2011.   At present, Mary McAleese is serving as a Professor of Irish Studies at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, which is the largest Catholic third-level institution in the UK. She is also studying for a doctorate in canon law, after having earned a degree in that discipline from the Gregorian University in Rome.

Fr David Tuohy SJ is a noted Jesuit educationalist who has previously preached at Christ Church Cathedral.  He served as project director of the Le Chéile Schools Trust, which provides trusteeship services – legal, financial and inspirational – for the schools of 14 religious congregations. He is the author of the book, Denominational Education and Politics; Ireland in a European Context, which aims to clarify the terminology used in debates about Church patronage in education.  When the book was launched in 2013, Archbishop Jackson spoke at that event.

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