Archbishop Richard Clarke to retire as Church of Ireland's most senior cleric

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Dr Richard ClarkeImage source, Pacemaker
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Richard Clarke has been Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland for almost seven years

The Church of Ireland's most senior cleric, the Most Revd Richard Clarke, has announced that he will retire in three months' time.

He explained that when he took the role he promised himself and his family that he would not stay in post for more than seven years.

He will mark that milestone next month and will step down on 2 February 2020.

The archbishop announced his intentions as he addressed the Armagh Diocesan Synod in St Mark's Parish Church in the city on Saturday.

He described his appointment as a "great privilege" and said his time in Armagh had "truly been a very agreeable experience for me".

He thanked members of the Church of Ireland and his diocese for their "constant encouragement, your friendship, your prayers, your support and your patience" throughout his tenure.

'When I became Archbishop of Armagh at the close of 2012, I made a quiet agreement with my family, a few close friends, and myself that I would try to work on as Primate for five years, assuming of course that ill health or mortality itself did not intervene," he said.

"Coming towards the end of that five-year period, I would then review the situation with my family and, if all seemed to be working out reasonably well and I felt that I was still 'up for it', I would continue on for a further two years, but would not go on beyond that point.

"This latter moment in time has now arrived."

Archbishop Clarke was born in 1949 and grew up in Dublin.

He was educated at Wesley College in his home city before studying for a degree in history and political science at Trinity College, Dublin.

He then taught English for a year in Iran with the Church Missionary Society, before returning to complete further studies in history and theology at Trinity and King's College London.

In 1996 he was consecrated as bishop of Meath and Kildare and in 2012 he succeeded Alan Harper in the Church of Ireland's top job.