Pope Francis has chosen Bishop Francis Duffy of the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois to succeed Archbishop Michael Neary as Archbishop of Tuam.
The announcement was made on Wednesday morning by the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Jude Okolo.
The Archdiocese of Tuam is renowned for the International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine at Knock, for the annual Croagh Patrick Reek Sunday pilgrimage as well as Ballintubber Abbey. The appointment is one of the most significant roles in the Irish Church.
Archbishop Michael Neary headed the diocese for almost 27 years and was the longest serving member of the Irish hierarchy. He tendered his resignation to the pope earlier this year on turning 75.
Archbishop-elect Duffy holds a number of roles in the Irish Bishops’ Conference including chair of the Council for Liturgy. He is a member of the Council for Education, as well as a member of the Commission for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development. The 63-year-old was appointed as bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois in 2013.
Archbishop Neary paid tribute to his successor as “a hard-working, kind and generous pastoral leader” and said his reputation as “a popular bishop” amongst his priests and people preceded him.
After Mass in the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Tuam on Wednesday, Archbishop-elect Duffy said he was leaving Longford, where he was based for the last eight years, with well advanced plans for a Diocesan Assembly in Ardagh and Clonmacnois led by parishioners, where a lot of time had been spent listening and discerning as part of a synodal path.
Addressing the congregation, Bishop Duffy told his new parishioners, “To move forward we must listen to all who have been hurt by their experience of Church.”
He said he was particularly struck by what Archbishop Neary said a last month about the Church in Tuam already being synodal in many ways.
“It is the Holy Spirit working in and through so many people. As we walk together may the Holy Spirit continue to guide, to challenge and to enlighten us.”
He also expressed encouragement to diocesan clergy describing their “caring, moving and hope-filled work” as “vital”.
Next Sunday, Bishop Duffy will be part of a pilgrimage undertaken by all the bishops of Ireland to Knock Shrine to commemorate all those who have died on the island during the Covid pandemic and to pray for their bereaved families.
“It has been a traumatic time for so many people and it has also been a time when we have witnessed so much selfless goodness and neighbourliness,” he said.
Archbishop-elect Duffy spent over twenty years as a teacher and as a school principal in counties Cavan and Leitrim followed by some years as diocesan secretary and financial administrator in the Diocese of Kilmore.
The head of the Irish Church, Archbishop Eamon Martin paid tribute to Archbishop Michael Neary on his retirement as Archbishop of Tuam.
“My feelings are mixed as Archbishop Michael – currently the longest serving member of the Bishops’ Conference – has never hesitated to offer friendship, support and wise counsel to me and to many others. A natural teacher, I will miss Archbishop Michael’s many gifts and helpful insights,” Archbishop Martin said.
Recalling Archbishop Neary’s homily of last Saturday, as part of a Triduum of prayer to St Joseph, in which he described the Patron of the Church as “a man of faith, strong, silent, patient and prudent … [who] placed himself at the service of the entire plan of salvation”, Archbishop Martin said this description could easily be ascribed to Archbishop Michael, “whose leadership in ministry has been nourished by prayer and a deep devotion to the Gospel, a natural humility, kindness of spirit and decisiveness.”
Life and ministry of Archbishop-elect Francis Duffy
Francis Duffy was born on 21 April 1958 in the parish of Templeport, Co Cavan to parents Mary Catherine Dolan and Frank Duffy.
He attended primary school at Munlough National School, Bawnboy, and completed his post-primary education at Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan.
Francis studied for the priesthood at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth and was ordained a priest for the diocese of Kilmore on 20 June 1982 in Saint Mogue’s Church, Bawnboy, Co Cavan by Bishop Francis MacKiernan.
He taught at Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan, and was appointed principal of Fatima and Felim’s Secondary School, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim in 1996.
After twelve years as principal he was appointed Diocesan Secretary and Financial Administrator and Chancellor. During that time he was resident priest in the parish of Laragh, Co Cavan.
On 17 July 2013 he was appointed Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois with his episcopal ordination taking place on 6 October 2013 at Saint Mary’s Church, Athlone.
As a member of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Duffy is currently chair of the Council for Liturgy, a member of the Council for Education, as well as a member of the Commission for Worship, Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development.