TWO new leaders of the main Protestant churches were elected yesterday at separate ballots in Dublin and Belfast.
Dr Michael Jackson (54), the current Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, was elected as the new Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough in succession to John Neill, who has retired.
Speaking last night in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Archbishop-elect Jackson said he was looking forward to establishing a good working relationship with his Catholic counterpart, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
He pledged to work in close partnership with the Anglican Primate of All Ireland, Alan Harper, who presided over the electoral college at which he became the first Northerner since 1969 to be chosen as the senior Anglican prelate in the Republic.
One of the first to congratulate Dr Jackson was Archbishop Martin, who in a message highlighted the close collaboration of the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland on the new Dublin Inter Religious Council.
Dr Jackson, a theologian, said that one of his first priorities would be to meet the clergy and people of his new diocese, as well as abuse survivors from the Bethany hostel which was associated with the Church of Ireland. He also stressed the importance of maintaining the ethos of Church of Ireland schools.
Following approval by the House of Bishops, the Archbishop-elect will be consecrated in Christ Church Cathedral on a date to be determined.
Meanwhile, in Belfast, the Rev Ivan Patterson (61), minister of Newcastle Presbyterian Church in Co Down, was elected Moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly and will take office in June when the annual General Assembly of ministers and laypeople meets.
Last night, Cardinal Sean Brady congratulated the Rev Patterson and said he looked forward to working with him at Inter-Church meetings.