POLITICAL pressures have forced the Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop John Armstrong of Armagh to decline an invitation to speak at the Charismatic Renewal Conference., beginning at the RDS in Dublin on August 29.
It is understood that while Archbishop Armstrong would dearly have liked to attend he feels it would he wrong for him to offend the susceptibilities of many Protestants in the North. He believes that the benefits to ecumenism would be more than outweighed by the damage that could he caused by dividing opinion within the Church of Ireland.
The theme of the Conference is -ironically — "Unite All Things in Christ" and it is being organised by the Catholic Service Committee, A source close to the Committee said this week that while they were very disappointed. they were quite sure that Archbishop Armstrong's decision was the right one. The Primate had to consider the welfare of the whole Church of Ireland which must be his first priority.
The source added that people in the Republic had no idea of the kind of pressures to which the clergy were subjected to in the North.
Archbishop Armstrong's place at the conference will he taken by the Rev John Neill, Rector of St Birtholomew's church in Clyde Road, Dublin. Mr Neill will share the platform with Kevin Ranaghan, one of the Catholic lay leaders of renewal in the United States, at one of the main sessions dealing with unity.
Mr Neill has been involved in Charismatic Renewal for about four years. A former rector of Skibereen in West Cork, he used to attend the Catholic prayer meeting in the town, and also ran his own house-meeting for parishioners.