Appointment of new Bishop in Down and Connor Press Conference details

22 Feb 2008

22 February 2008

Appointment of new Bishop in Down and Connor
Press Conference: The Cathedral, St. Peter’s Square, Belfast, Friday 22nd February 2008 at 11.00 a.m.


Diocesan Details Monsignor Treanor will be the 32nd Bishop of Down and Connor, since the Dioceses of Down and Connor were joined in 1453.

The Diocese of Down and Connor is the second largest diocese in Ireland stretching from Portrush and Portstewart in the north of the diocese to Kilkeel in the south of the diocese. The Catholic population is 330,000 and there are 88 parishes in the Diocese.

Speaking of Bishop-Elect Treanor’s appointment, Bishop Patrick Walsh said:

The history of a diocese is very often written in chapters devoted to the life and times of successive bishops. This is chronologically very neat although not necessarily the best historic method. So the appointment of a new bishop to a diocese does in a certain way mark the opening of a new chapter. I have often reflected on how each of the three bishops who have preceded me – Bishop Mageean, Bishop Philbin and Bishop (now Cardinal) Daly – exercised the ministry of bishop in the circumstances of their time. They came from different backgrounds, they came with different life experiences, they had contrasting styles of leadership but through their successive episcopates there ran a continuity of ministry to the priests, religious and people of the diocese. That pastoral, spiritual and moral ministry is the priority for every bishop in his care for each of the parishes in a diocese. And each Bishop, conscious that he is building on foundations laid by his predecessors over successive generations, brings to his office the freshness of his previous experience and ministry.

Such is very true of our new bishop, Monsignor Noel Treanor. He comes to us, after parish ministry in Clogher Diocese, with a wealth of experience of the churches in mainland Europe. As Ireland North and South is rapidly becoming more secular and multi-pluralist we have much to learn from the very many churches in European countries who have faced the challenges of this new society. This experience will be invaluable for Mgr. Treanor’s pastoral care in our diocese.

So, today, on behalf of Bishop Farquhar and Bishop McKeown and on my own behalf, I extend a very sincere and warm welcome to Mgr. Treanor as our new bishop. In my years as bishop I valued the support, the loyalty, the wisdom of Bishop Farquhar and Bishop McKeown and the late Bishop Michael Dallat as my auxiliary bishops and I know that the auxiliary bishops will give to our new bishop that same support and assistance.

Today is the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair, the symbol of unity of the universal church and the patron of our Cathedral. Mgr. Treanor will be celebrating Mass with the Cathedral Chapter, the Canons of our Diocese, and with the three bishops, entrusting his ministry as Bishop to Almighty God. This afternoon he will meet a cross-section of the priests of the Diocese, the twelve Vicars Forane who have responsibilities for the twelve regions (Vicariates) of the diocese and the members of the Council of Priests who represent the priests of the Diocese.

Monsignor Noel, the priests, with Bishop Farquhar and Bishop McKeown, will be your closest co-workers. This is not the occasion for me to extol the priests of our diocese but, Monsignor, you can be certain that they will give you the same loyal support as they gave to me over these past years. In the words of St. Paul they are: “My pride and my joy” and they will be so for you.

Speaking of his appointment, Bishop-Elect Treanor said:

1. I come with Joy and Admiration in my heart

Today marks an unexpected and new phase in my life. It opens an exciting perspective in many respects. At the same time it is a day of immense joy. At the invitation of Bishop Patrick Walsh I have come here for the announcement of this nomination.

I come with great joy in my heart. I look forward to working in the service of Jesus Christ and his Gospel together with the priests, with the members of religious orders and congregations and with the laity of this historic diocese.

As I look forward, I am keenly aware that I have much to learn about all aspects of life in Down and Connor. Knowing that I shall be on a learning curve for a considerable time, I am profoundly encouraged and touched by ~

the welcome extended to me by Bishop Patrick Walsh and by the warm and generous assurances of brotherly support assured to me by Bishop Tony Farquhar and Bishop Donal McKeown.

My conversations with Bishop Walsh have given me a sense of the nobility, faithful dedication and zeal of the priests of this diocese. They have served Jesus Christ and the Church through dark and difficult decades. I am at once honoured and humbled to join them in the service of God’s kingdom.

Bishop Walsh has also sketched for me the pastoral and administrative services of the diocese. What he has outlined evokes my admiration, for example the whole area of family ministry.

I shall count and rely on the continued service and support of the priests and laity who give their time and expertise in numerous ways. I look forward to learning from them, to listening to them and to working with them in the numerous and varied areas of the Church’s life and service to society in the diocese and beyond.

2. A Priest of a Northern diocese

It is a fact that I come from outside the diocese. I am a priest of the diocese of Clogher. Covering all of County Monaghan, and reaching the Atlantic seaboard in south Donegal, approximately half of its parishes are located in Northern Ireland – in Counties Fermanagh and Tyrone.

For the past nineteen years I have exercised my priestly ministry on the interface between ecclesiastical and public life: at the COMECE secretariat in Brussels. Throughout these years, I have maintained close contact with Bishop Duffy and the diocese of Clogher and enjoyed assisting in my native parish and other parishes, especially at Christmas and Easter time.

At COMECE I worked for the Bishops’ conferences of the member states of the European Union vis à vis the European Union and its institutions – primarily the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council.

COMECE was founded in 1980. Cardinal Cahal B. Daly was among its founding members and served as its Vice President from 1980 to 1983.

COMECE, like the offices of the Protestant and Orthodox Churches in Brussels, performs three core functions:

• monitoring draft EU policy in a wide range of spheres and engaging in consultation processes on behalf of the Church in the member states
• providing an information service on EU issues to the Bishops’ Conferences
and Church agencies throughout the member states, primarily though not exclusively through a monthly publication, Europe Infos
• fostering debate between Christian faith and political institutions at the EU level on seminal issues in EU policy field

If in some respects the work of COMECE might be considered technical in kind – I had the pleasure of working with a small team of Europeans from seven nations with different and complementary academic backgrounds (law, political science, social sciences, islamology, theology) – its work is at once a service to the pastoral mission of the Church in society and an application of that mission to the governance processes of our European society. It was also a privilege to exercise my priestly ministry in various ways and contexts in a European setting throughout almost two decades.

3. A nodal moment for Church and society in Northern Ireland

I recognise that I have been asked to succeed Bishop Walsh at a nodal moment in the life of Northern Ireland. There is promise in the air. New institutions are in place. Christians must lend their shoulders, their talents to building a society rooted in respect for the dignity of every human person and dedicated to pursuing justice for all, especially the underprivileged, the needy and the poor. A new society, politically, economically, socially and culturally vibrant can be constructed through consensus: together with the priests and faithful of the diocese I look forward to contributing to his challenging process.

4. I ask for your prayers and support

So, I come to Down and Connor with a particular experience. I have much, almost all, to learn about the history of his great diocese, about the contemporary life of the Church and its contemporary societal context, about the ecumenical and inter-religious aspects of life here. I come with an open heart and mind.

I ask for the prayers of all the Catholic faithful – young and old – throughout the parishes of the diocese. I shall rely on the understanding and patience of the priests so that together we may serve the people of God by proclaiming the Gospel, celebrating the sacraments and engaging in the work of charity in the face of human suffering and need.

Speaking of Bishop-Elect Treanor’s appointment,

Bishop Anthony Farquhar, Auxiliary Bishop said:

I wish to welcome Monsignor Treanor for many reasons, but particularly because of his ecumenical commitment over the years. I recall his inviting Dr. David Stevens, then Secretary of the Irish Council of Churches, and myself to address a meeting in Brussels. And at that stage I recognised a great ecumenical clarity of mind.


In more recent times Monsignor Treanor has addressed the Irish Inter-Church (Ballymascanlon) Meeting, and has given great support to that.

I know from his links with the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Europe and the Conference of European Churches that he will bring a very wise and wide vision of European ecumenism to our domestic ecumenical scene. Those who are committed to inter-Church spirituality and activity have acquired a great supporter today.

and Bishop Donal McKeown, Auxiliary Bishop said:

I was really thrilled when I heard about the nomination of Monsignor Noel Treanor as the new Bishop of Down and Connor. I first got to know him when we were students together for two years in the Irish College in Rome over thirty years ago. In the intervening years – particularly recently – I have met him at a number of international conferences where he was playing a leading role.

Furthermore, he comes from North Monaghan, not far from where my own grandfather grew up. Indeed, some of his connections were Treanors. So we might even be distant relations!

I know that he is highly esteemed across Europe for his wide range of talents and experience. His appointment opens up a whole range of new and exciting possibilities for the Church in Down and Connor and I am really looking forward to working with him here in the spreading of the Gospel and building up the Church family in this diocese.

Biographical Details:

Bishop Patrick Walsh

Bishop Walsh was ordained in 1956 in Rome following the completion of his studies there and this was followed by two years in Christ’s College, Cambridge where he obtained a M.A. in mathematics and subsequently also obtained a M.A. from Queen’s University.

In 1958 he was appointed to the staff of St. MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower and remained there until 1964 when he was appointed Chaplain to the Catholic students attending Queen’s University. In 1970 he was appointed President of St. Malachy’s College, Belfast.

Bishop Walsh was ordained as Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Down and Connor in 1983 and in 1991 he was appointed Bishop of Down and Connor.

He was a member of various Episcopal Commissions including Justice and Peace, Finance and Seminaries, and Chairman of the Department of Planning and Communications.

He is Chairman of the Board of Governors of St. Mary’s University College and Chairman of the Trustees of the four Diocesan Colleges. He is also Chairman of the Trustees of the Mater Hospital. He is currently a member of a number of Episcopal Departments and is a member of the Joint Bio-Ethics Committee of the Episcopal Conferences of England and Wales.

Bishop-Elect Noel Treanor

Monsignor Noel Treanor was born on 25th December 1950 at Silverstream, Co. Monaghan, in the Parish of Tyholland in the Diocese of Clogher.

He attended St. Brigid’s National School, Leitrim, and completed his early education at St. Mary’s C.B.S., Monaghan. He began in 1968 his study of Arts and Philosophy at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and later, in 1971, the study of Theology, achieving his Licence in Sacred theology, with special commendation, in 1977.

Ordained priest in 1976 in the Cathedral of St. Macartan, Clogher Diocese, he was sent by his Bishop to the Irish College in Rome to pursue his studies of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Recalled in 1980 by the new Bishop of the diocese, Most Rev. Joseph Duffy, he was appointed assistant in the Cathedral parish, with charge of the local Catholic Marriage Advisory Council.

From 1981 to 1985 he again pursued the study of theology in Rome, while at the same time serving as Prefect of studies at the Irish College.

Having returned to his Diocese in 1985, he was appointed Director of Adult Education. He also organised the Diocesan Assembly of the clergy that was held in 1986 to promote pastoral renewal within the Diocese.

His next appointment was a curacy in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, where he also provided pastoral care at the general hospital and was active as confessor at Lough Derg pilgrimage centre.

In 1989 he was sent to Brussels to work with COMECE. While deeply involved in the expanding endeavour of this Church body to project Christian values into the European process, he has continued to engage in pastoral work through contact with the English-speaking community in the city centre. He has also published and lectured widely on European construction issues, the Church and Europe, and Church-State matters.

On 31st March 1993 he was unanimously appointed Secretary General of COMECE for a three-year term and has been reappointed for several successive terms since then.

On 18th May 1994 he was nominated Chaplain to His Holiness.


Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan, Communications Officer (086 817 5674)