Northern Ireland

Belfast's St Anne's Cathedral appoints Catholic priest as canon for first time

Father Edward O'Donnell Image copyright St Anne's Cathedral
Image caption Fr Edward O'Donnell said he wanted to use his role to make "a contribution to the Christian life of our city"

A Church of Ireland cathedral in Belfast has appointed a Catholic priest to serve alongside its clergy for the first time in its history.

Fr Edward O'Donnell said it was a "significant, perhaps even historic step" that he would serve on the chapter at St Anne's Cathedral.

The Belfast priest becomes one of the cathedral's three ecumenical canons, each from a different Christian church.

In his role at St Anne's he can preach, lead prayers and read scripture.

He can also assist at the cathedral's traditional Black Santa Christmas collection for charity.

Ecumenical canons are elected by churches wanting to acknowledge a fellowship with another church.

The dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann, and the chapter of St Anne's Cathedral elected Fr O'Donnell to the position.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Dean John Mann said Fr O'Donnell would strengthen "important ecumenical bonds" between the churches

Fr O'Donnell, the parish priest of St Brigid's in Belfast, said he wanted to work with St Anne's to make "a contribution to the Christian life of our city".

"While this is a personal privilege for me, the honour is shared with all those who work quietly but persistently to improve and strengthen inter-church relationships," he said.

"I recognise that for St Anne's Cathedral community and for the Catholic community of Belfast, that this is a significant step, perhaps even historic.

"But more so, I recognise the generosity of the dean and chapter in inviting me as a representative of the Roman Catholic Church to be an ecumenical canon."

Dean Mann said Fr O'Donnell, who has been a priest for 40 years, is "a priest for whom I have great admiration".

"His presence in St Anne's will be source of strengthening the already important ecumenical bonds that we have," he added.

"Our unity in Christ is important to us both."

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