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Pope Francis Elevates U.K. Church to Co-Cathedral Status in Historic Move
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In a historic development, Pope Francis has granted a U.K. church "co-cathedral status," marking the first occurrence of its kind in the history of Britain.
The esteemed Church of St. Mary of the Isle, situated in Douglas on the Isle of Man, has achieved this rare status following the formal recognition of Douglas as a city during the platinum jubilee celebrations of the late Queen Elizabeth II in June 2022.
St. Mary of the Isle will now share the co-cathedral designation with Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. These two cathedrals, though separated by approximately 80 miles and the Irish Sea, both fall under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Liverpool.
Co-cathedrals are a noteworthy rarity within the Catholic Church and are established primarily when two dioceses, each with its own cathedral, are merged, or in cases where one diocese spans across two different civil jurisdictions, as exemplified by the Archdiocese of Liverpool.
Monsignor John Devine, the parish priest of St. Mary of the Isle, expressed his delight that the process of achieving co-cathedral status, which extended over the course of a year, had been successfully completed.
In a statement released by the Catholic Bishops Conference for England and Wales on September 22, he remarked, "I am delighted that St. Mary of the Isle has been granted cathedral status; it is wonderful news for Catholics across the island."
Devine explained that the journey towards this significant recognition began with an approach from the Douglas Borough Council. They highlighted that cities typically have cathedrals, and the island already boasts an Anglican cathedral on its west coast. This led to their inquiry regarding the possibility of elevating the Church of St. Mary of the Isle in Douglas to the status of a cathedral.
Devine continued, "The archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, on the advice of canon lawyers, petitioned the Holy Father, a request supported by both the Anglican bishop of Sodor and Man, the chief executive of Douglas Council, and the president of Tynwald."
In the same press statement, Archbishop McMahon expressed his joy, stating, "It's with great joy that St. Mary of the Isle has been granted cathedral status. The Isle of Man is a significant part of our archdiocese; it constitutes one-third of its landmass, and the island's Catholic community has increasing diversity with parishioners coming from many different parts of the world. It is fantastic that we can acknowledge this with the announcement of a co-cathedral â€" a status that is rare in the Catholic Church. It is something that everyone on the island will take great pride in."
Devine, in the September 22 statement, emphasized the Isle of Man's unique faith story. He noted, "Christianity in the Isle of Man traces its roots to the time of St. Patrick and St. Maughold in the fifth century. But there is limited appreciation of the unique history and traditions of the Manx Church in the rest of the archdiocese," and added, "Similarly, few of the island's Catholics identify with Liverpool. However, rather than separating them further, the granting of co-cathedral status to St. Mary's will raise consciousness in Liverpool to the riches of the Manx church."
He pointed out that the permanent presence of the archbishop's seat at St. Mary's will also "serve as a reminder to the people of the island that the archbishop of Liverpool is their archbishop, too."
The Isle of Man, a self-governing island located between Great Britain and Ireland, is home to a population of approximately 84,000 people. This historic elevation to co-cathedral status signifies a momentous chapter in the island's religious history.
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