Tuesday, 7 April 2009

No Bishop Of Belfast

As part of the Anglican communion, the Church of Ireland has customarily been different in its diocesan organization, viz. many dioceses have been amalgamated and administered by one bishop for centuries.

For instance, the diocese of Down & Dromore has only one bishop; not that long ago, indeed, it operated as the diocese of Down, Connor & Dromore.

Belfast Cathedral, like St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, is really an ecclesiastical peculiar. At the tail end of the 19th century, the city fathers and others felt that Belfast's rising status as a city within the British Empire merited a cathedral, so St Anne's Cathedral was built.

A new diocese of Belfast was not, however, created. Instead, Belfast Cathedral was kept within the large diocese of Connor in County Antrim. It was decided that the Bishop of Connor would be the Ordinary, and that the Cathedral would be shared between the Bishop of Connor and the Bishop of Down and Dromore; thus there are two cathedras, or bishops' thrones, in the Cathedral.

I imagine that the most likely reason for this amalgamation of dioceses with one bishop may well be for reasons of economy. The Church of Ireland is much smaller in size and numbers than the Church of England. The Church of England is immeasurably wealthier, too, being able to afford the trappings of the office of a prelate with the palaces, staff, grounds etc.

The Church of Ireland sold its last great palace, Armagh Palace pictured at the top, seat of the Archbishops of Armagh and Primates, in the early seventies to the local council due, undoubtedly, to high and burdensome maintenance costs. The last archbishop to reside there, I think, was Dr Simms.

Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to me that Belfast ought to have had its own diocese with a Bishop of Belfast. The deanship of Belfast has existed since the Cathedral was consecrated in 1904. The archdeaconship of Belfast has been in existence since 2007.

Perhaps an office such as a suffragan Bishop of Belfast could have been created, although the Archdeacon of Belfast assists the Bishop of Connor in this respect. There has never been a tradition of suffragan bishops in the Church of Ireland, to date.


Anonymous said...

what a ridiculous idea. Irish dioceses are based on ancient tribal territories and you want to set up "Belfast". Most of Belfast is in Down by the way, not Connor. And there is no "Belfast Cathedral" - Belfast has two cathedrals - St Peter's and St Anne's - you can't call one of them "Belfast Cathedral"

Timothy Belmont said...

Thank you so much for your comments, Anonymous.I am aware that Belfast has two cathedrals.

St Peter's RC Cathedral was not always a cathedral church, as far as I am aware. St Anne's Cathedral was the first cathedral in the city and has always been known as Belfast Cathedral, as its website shall reaffirm by its title.

I never said I wanted to "set up Belfast" as a diocese; it seems reasonable to me.

The city of Belfast was established in County Antrim, by the way. The River Lagan marks the boudary between Co Antrim & Co Down.

Anonymous said...

St Peter's was a pro-cathedral long before St Anne's. And it's only in recent times that St Anne's has started describing itself as Belfast Cathedral. It's not appropriate when there are other cathedrals, unless there is an established church as for example Glasgow Cathedral (Church of Scotland) which of course ironically isn't any longer really a cathedral since presbyterians don't have bishops.

The Lagan is the boundary between Antrim and Down but not between Down and Connor which is a river somewhere around Glengormley.

Enjoy your blog by the way - just arguing for the crack.


Have to chose "anonymous" as system won't let me leave comment anyother way

Timothy Belmont said...

I understand where you're coming from, as far the calling St Anne's "Belfast Cathedral" is concerned. You feel that St Peter's is also Belfast Cathedral, or that the nomenclature is ambiguous.

Personally speaking, I haven't a problem with the status quo. We'll agree to differ!