Diocese of Dromore
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(DROMORENSIS, and in ancient documents DRUMORENSIS)
Dromore is one of the eight suffragans of Armagh, Ireland. It includes portions of the counties of Down, Armagh, and Antrim, and contains eighteen parishes, of which two, Newry and Clonallon, are mensal parishes. It takes its name from Dromore ( Druim Mor, great ridge), a small town in the northwest of County Down, sixty-three miles north of Dublin, twenty-five miles east of Armagh, and fourteen miles south-west of Belfast, which is built on the same river, the Lagan. The See of Dromore was founded in the sixth century by St. Colman (called also Mocholmoc), one of the many holy men (more than a hundred) bearing that name in the calendars of Irish saints. From a prophecy said to have been uttered by St. Patrick, sixty years before, Archbishop Healy ("Life and Writings of St. Patrick", p. 494) infers that St. Patrick claimed no immediate spiritual jurisdiction over the territory of Iveagh which forms mainly the Diocese of Dromore, but willed that territory to be reserved for a bishop of the native race of Dal-Araide — namely, St. Colman, who founded his see there about the year 514, some sixty years after St. Patrick founded the See of Armagh. Dromore has had its own independent jurisdiction ever since. The old cathedral of Dromore, which had been taken by the Protestants, was burnt down by the Irish insurgents in 1641, and rebuilt by Bishop Taylor twenty years later; but it has been far surpassed by the Catholic church recently erected. The seat of the cathedral, however, was transferred some two hundred years ago to Newry, the largest town of County Down, and a place of great historical interest, situated at the head of Carlingford Lough. In this town, when the severity of the Penal Laws began to relax, in the latter half of the eighteenth century, the Catholics built in a retired suburb a very plain church which is still in use; but just before Catholic Emancipation an edifice worthy of the name of cathedral was begun in 1825 and completed by Dr. Michael Blake (1833-1860) who had been Vicar-General of Dublin and the restorer of the Irish College at Rome. This cathedral was greatly enlarged and beautified by Bishop Henry O'Neill, who succeeded Bishop McGivern in 1901.
Under Dr. McGivern's predecessor, Dr. John Pius Leahy, O.P. (1860-1890), a Dominican priory was founded on the Armagh side of Newry, and a very handsome church erected. The Poor Clares, who went to Newry from Harold's Cross, Dublin, in 1830, were for many years the only nuns north of the Boyne. The Sisters of Mercy founded a convent at Newry in 1855, and have now flourishing establishments in Lurgan, Rostrevor, and Warrenpoint. There is a large diocesan college at Violet Hill near Newry which is under the patronage of St. Colman. To this patron saint of the diocese and its first bishop, besides the church at Dromore already referred to, are also dedicated the parish churches at Tullylish, Kilvarlin, in the parish of Magheralin, and Barnmeen near Rathfriland in the parish of Drumgath. Few ecclesiastical antiquities have survived the ravages of time, war, and heresy. Abbey Yard in Newry marks the site of the Cistercian abbey founded in the year 1144 by St. Bernard's friend, St. Malachy O'Morgair, and endowed in 1157 by Maurice O'Loughlin, King of All Ireland. It is called in the annals Monasterium de Viridi Ligno — a name given to Newry from the yew-tree said to have been planted there by St. Patrick, the Irish name being Niubar (and sometimes Newrkintragh, "the yew at the head of the strand") which is latinized Ivorium or Nevoracum, but more commonly as above Viride Lignum. There are the ruins of an old church half a mile east of Hilltown. In the adjoining parish of Kilbroney (church of St. Bronach, a virgin saint of the district) half a mile north-east of Rostrevor is a graveyard with the venerable ruins of a church, an ancient stone cross, and a little to the west St. Brigid's well. Imbedded in a tree in this graveyard, a very antique bell was found about a hundred years ago and is now carefully preserved.
The first Protestant Bishop of Dromore was John Tod, on whom it was bestowed in commendam in 1606, while he was at the same time Bishop of Down and Connor. It was an unfortunate beginning; for the Protestant historian, Sir James Ware, says Tod was degraded for incontinence and poisoned himself in prison in London. Two of his successors distinguished themselves more creditably: Jeremy Taylor, who was bishop of these three dioceses from 1661 to 1667, an eloquent preacher and a writer of genius, and Thomas Percy, Bishop of Dromore from 1782 to 1811, whose "Reliques of Ancient Poetry" had a great and enduring influence on English literature.
There are 18 parishes, 42 churches, and 53 priests, a diocesan seminary and a convent of Dominicans at Newry; also 5 convents of Sisters of Mercy, one of Poor Clares, and a college of the Christian Brothers (Newry). The Catholic population is (1908), 43,014; non-Catholic, 71,187.
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