Statement of Bishop Donal McKeown on the death of Bishop Anthony Farquhar RIP

18 Nov 2023

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Bishop Anthony Farquhar last night in Nazareth Care Village, Belfast, where he had been looked after so professionally and attentively over the last few years of his retirement and especially in his ailing health.
Above all, Bishop Tony was a sincere, warm and engaging human being and a man of joyful faith who had a renowned and remarkable capacity to remember all those he had met and an infectious wit and sense of humour that endeared him to others. Bishop Tony will long be remembered for this disarming presence, his affectionate smile and his pastoral charity.
Following his priestly Ordination in 1965, Bishop Tony served in the parish of Ardglass, in hospital Chaplaincy and on the teaching staff of the Diocesan College in Garron Tower before being appointed as Chaplain to Ulster University. Bishop Tony spoke often of his days as a university chaplain and recalled meeting these students in later years on special occasions. Indeed, his lifelong interest in sport, particularly football as an ardent fan of Dundee Utd., emerged with his involvement during these early days of his ministry in university football.
Bishop Farquhar, appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor in 1983 and one of the longest serving Bishops in Ireland, served the Church both locally, celebrating over 70,000 confirmations across the diocese, and globally through his contribution to the field of ecumenism, serving as Co-Chairman of the Dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC). Indeed, he enjoyed a wide range of ecumenical friendships, particularly that with the late Reverend Ray Davey who founded the Corrymeela Community.
Together, along with Bishop Emeritus Patrick Walsh, and all the people of Down and Connor – priests, religious women and men and laity, I want to record my debt to him for his insightful wisdom and his priestly example.
I express my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Bishop Tony; his sister Anne and extended family members, and to the clergy and people of the Diocese of Down and Connor whom he served so well.
With love, I commend his soul to God’s goodness and mercy. May he rest in peace.
Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis -go deimhin ni bheadh a leithead aris ann.
Bishop Donal McKeown
Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Down & Connor

Notes to Editor

Bishop Tony Farquhar was originally born in the Belfast Parish of Holy Rosary in September 1940. Following primary studies, he entered St Malachy’s College, Antrim Road, Belfast in 1951 completing his secondary studies before commencing philosophical and Classical studies at QUB in 1957. Graduating with a B.A. Honours degree in Classics from QUB, Bishop Farquhar continued his priestly formation and theological studies at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome in 1961 whilst residing in the nearby Pontifical Irish College. He graduated from the Pontifical Lateran University with both a Bachelors Degree in Theology (B.D.) and a Licentiate in Theological Studies (S.T.L.) in 1965 before returning home to the Diocese of Down and Connor.
Bishop Farquhar was ordained a priest on 13th March 1965 and his first appointment in the Diocese was to the parish of Ardglass that following September. In March 1966, he was appointed as Chaplain to Musgrave Park Hospital alongside Chaplaincy to Forster Green Hospital and St Patrick’s Training School, Glen Road.
In September 1966, Bishop Farquhar was appointed to the staff of St MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower where he taught until 1970 before taking up an appointment as Assistant Chaplain at Queen’s University Belfast. In 1975, he became Chaplain and lecturer to the New University of Ulster as well as Chaplain to the Dominican College in Portstewart.
On 15th May 1983, he was ordained as an Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor and retired in December 2015.
Alongside his Diocesan Responsibilities as an Auxiliary bishop of Down and Connor:
Bishop Farquhar served as an appointee of the Holy Father as a member of the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).
He served as Roman Catholic Co-Chairman of the Dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC).
Bishop Farquhar chaired the Commission on Ecumenism of the Irish Episcopal Conference when he steered it to take up its associate membership of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI).
He served as one of the Roman Catholic representatives at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops from around the world (2008).
In 2008 his ecumenical work was acknowledged in an ecumenical Festschrift with contributions from leading ecumenists in these islands and around the world including a contribution by Cardinal Walter Kasper.
In 2016, Bishop Farquhar received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) from Ulster University for his distinguished service to the university and to the community.