I understand and support the decision of Bishop Gerard Clifford to retire today due to ill health. Now that his resignation has been accepted by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, I am pleased for Bishop Clifford’s own sake and for his health.
However I genuinely regret the retirement of Bishop Clifford and his loyal, faithful and outstanding support at all times since my own appointment to the Archdiocese of Armagh in 1995. At a personal level I greatly appreciate his warmth, wisdom and compassion and I look forward to our continued friendship over the years ahead.
Bishop Clifford’s many gifts and selfless contribution to the work of the Irish Bishops’ Conference over the last twenty years have been particularly marked in the areas of ecumenism, education and in pastoral care.
Following the 1979 visit to Ireland of Blessed John Paul II, Bishop Clifford was a key player in the closer cooperation between the Churches and Christian traditions on this island. As a member of the Council for Ecumenism of the Bishops’ Conference, he continued to be an important adviser on ecumenical affairs. In the field of education his expertise was provided initially as a diocesan adviser for ten years before his appointment as bishop, and thereafter for his input in the many public debates on education which have taken place in the North and South. Most recently Bishop Clifford’s sensitivity and compassion were evident in Cura during his successful tenure as President of the crisis pregnancy agency of the Bishops’ Conference.
I ask you to remember Bishop Clifford in your prayers at this time. I wish him good health, a happy retirement and God’s blessing now and always.
26 February 2013