Belfast Anglican Cathedral appoints Catholic priest for first time ever

Fr Edward O'DonnellBelfast Cathedral

A Roman Catholic Preist has been appointed as one of the clergy at Belfast's Anglican Cathedral for the first time ever.

The bold move sees Fr Edward O'Donnell, who's been a Catholic priest for 40 years, join the Chapter of St Anne's Church of Ireland Cathedral.

He is one of three 'ecumenical canons' to be part of the team along with two women – both co-incidentally called Rev Ruth Patterson. One is the first woman to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the other a Methodist minister.

Fr O'Donnell 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."

The move is significant not only in bringing symbolic unity across the historic Anglican-Roman Catholic divide, which has existed since the English Reformation in the 16th Century. In Northern Ireland, there is an added level of significance, given the divide between the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities, which has been the basis for intense division over hundreds of years.

The Dean of the Cathedral, The Very Rev John Mann welcomed the appointment, "I am delighted that Father Eddie O'Donnell has accepted nomination as an Ecumenical Canon of the Cathedral," he said. "He is a priest for whom I have great admiration and his presence in St Anne's will be source of strengthening the already important ecumenical bonds that we have. Our unity in Christ is important to us both."