Sad End for Man Tipped As Church's Leading Light

By Ralph Riegel
Irish Independent
March 9, 2009

NEXT week Dr John Magee will mark the 22nd anniversary of his appointment as Bishop of Cloyne.

But it will be a low-key celebration given the stark events of the past four months, events that mean Dr Magee's diocese is now being run by another cleric.

It is perhaps ironic that an Apostolic Administrator should be appointed to Cloyne the week before St Patrick's Day. Throughout his life and career, March 17 held special symbolism for Dr Magee.

He was first ordained a priest on St Patrick's Day in 1962.

Later ordained the Bishop of Cloyne on St Patrick's Day in 1987, the Newry-born cleric now finds his sprawling Diocese being run by Archbishop Dermot Clifford.

The irony is that the Vatican chose to act on Dr Magee's written request just one week before another St Patrick's Day in 2009.

The latest events mark a sad finale to the career of man who many had expected to become one of the leading lights in the Catholic Church, both in Ireland and Rome.

He is the only man in the modern history of the Church to have served three successive Pontiffs -- Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II.

Throughout his 22 years as Bishop of Cloyne, he underlined his status as one of the Church's great intellects.

However, he was also the focus of several controversies in Cloyne, one of which erupted over his plans to 're-order' his bishopric seat, St Colman's Cathedral.

The move, which included removing marble altar rails and digging up an historic floor mosaic, sparked outrage among parishioners.

Ultimately, the matter went to An Bord Pleanala who ruled against the bishop's re-ordering plans.

But the issue left a lingering, bitter legacy in the diocese which merely exacerbated the fall-out from the clerical abuse row last December.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.