Monsignor Eamon Martin has today been appointed assistant bishop in the Archdiocese of Armagh, as Cardinal Sean Brady plans to retire as head of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Monsignor Eamon Martin, diocesan administrator of the Diocese of Derry, is set to assume Cardinal Brady's duties by 2015 at the earliest.
Cardinal Brady announced the changes to the hierarchy at Mass in Armagh this morning.
“I am delighted that the man chosen is Monsignor Eamon Martin,” he said.
“I congratulate you most heartily, Monsignor Martin. I welcome you to the city and the Diocese of Patrick.”
Church sources revealed that the cardinal is expected to retire from his role at the leader of the church in Ireland in the next two to four years.
Monsignor Martin said he was shocked when told of the appointment.
“I am very conscious of the great trust that the Holy Father has placed in me, but in truth I have to admit it was with considerable nervousness and trepidation that I accepted his call,” he said.
“Over the past few days, I have reflected a lot on this new calling from God in my life. I am humbled and honoured to serve as bishop in this historic Archdiocese of Armagh.”
In his acceptance speech, Monsignor Martin addressed the abuse scandals that have been exposed over the last two decades.
“One of the greatest challenges facing our Church is to acknowledge, live with, and learn from the past, including the terrible trauma caused by abuse,” he said.
“I think today of all those who have been abused by clergy, and the hurt and betrayal they have experienced.
“I am saddened that many good Catholics were let down so badly over the issue of abuse and that some have even stopped practising their faith. It saddens me because I love God and I love the Church that I serve.
“As a Church, we must continue in our efforts to bring healing to victims and ensure that young people are always protected, respected and nurtured.”
Cardinal Brady, a native of Laragh, Co Cavan, in the Diocese of Kilmore, trained at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and the Irish College, in Rome, where he was ordained in February 1964.
He received a doctorate in canon law at the Lateran University in 1967.
Cardinal Brady served as coadjutor archbishop of Armagh when appointed to Armagh in February 1995 and on the retirement of Cardinal Cahal Daly succeeded as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland in October 1996.
The cardinal was elevated to his current role by Pope Benedict in 2007. He is chairman of the Irish Episcopal Conference.
The Cardinal, aged 73, has led the church in Ireland for more than 16 years as a series of investigations exposed damning levels of clerical abuse.
The cleric was embroiled in accusations that he mishandled allegations amid wider cover-ups in the church after it emerged he interviewed two child victims of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.
As a 36-year-old priest and expert in canon law, Cardinal Brady was made aware in the 1970s of abuse by Smyth but did not inform the police or the abused children’s parents.
Last May he said he would not resign over the affair.
Cardinal Brady said he requested in 2010 that Pope Benedict XVI appoint a senior cleric to the Armagh Archdiocese to assist him.
“Today my request has been granted and I am so very thankful to the Holy Father for acceding to my request,” he said.
“I have known Monsignor Eamon for quite a number of years. When I knew him first, he was principal of St Columb’s College, Derry, one of the leading post-primary schools in this country, where, I am reliably informed, he did an excellent job. Later, he became secretary of the Irish Episcopal Conference where he did outstanding work.
“As president of the Episcopal Conference, it was my good fortune to work closely with him and appreciate his many good qualities. As Vicar General and more recently as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Derry, Monsignor Martin has gained invaluable experience.”