Saturday, 6 June 2020

Hereditary Abbots

The Needhams, Earls of Kilmorey, have been Hereditary Abbots of the Exempt Jurisdiction of Newry and Mourne for centuries.

Sir Richard Needham, the 6th and present Earl of Kilmorey (though he doesn't use the title), a true friend of Northern Ireland, is the current hereditary abbot.

Sir Richard receiving a box of fish from County Down

In medieval times Newry and Mourne was beyond episcopal influence, being controlled instead by a 'mitred' abbot.

Following the dissolution of the monasteries, between 1536 and 1541, the Bagenal family was granted monastic property in Newry and Mourne.

Through intermarriage the exempt jurisdiction was afterwards controlled by the Kilmorey and Anglesey families.

As lay abbots, the Earls of Kilmorey exercised their right to appoint a Vicar-General, to issue marriage licences; grants of probate of letters and wills of administration in intestacies; and to hear ecclesiastical and matrimonial causes.

Any appeals in these causes were not to the Lord Primate (Archbishop of Armagh), but directly to the Sovereign in chancery and a court of delegates.

Neither the pre-Reformation abbots nor the Earls of Kilmorey, however, could exercise the rite of confirmation.

The Archbishop of Armagh and the Bishop of Down were, therefore, invited into the exempt jurisdiction at certain times to carry out this function.

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland passed a bill in 1873 in which it was declared that the Earl of Kilmorey had been the Lord of the Exempt Jurisdiction of Newry and Mourne until the passing of the Irish Church Act of 1869; that the Jurisdiction comprised the parish of Newry with St Patrick's Church, the parish of Kilkeel, and the chapelries of Kilmegan, Kilcoo, and Tamlaght.

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