Pope Francis has appointed Antrim native Dr Donal McKeown as the new Catholic Bishop of Derry.
Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Down and Connor since 2001, the 63-year-old was confirmed in the role following a ceremony in St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry City this morning.
The position has been left vacant for more than two years following the retirement of Séamus Hegarty in November 2011.
Monsignor Eamon was initially elected as Diocesan Administrator of Derry before he was ordained Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh last April. Since then, Rouskey priest Fr Francis Bradley has taken up the helm.
The Derry Diocese spans most of Co Derry, West Tyrone, the Inishowen area of Donegal and a small part of Co Antrim.
Speaking at St Eugene’s Cathedral this morning, Bishop McKeown revealed he was appointed after an invitation Dublin to meet the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown just six days ago.
Acknowledging the challenges posed by the legacy of child abuse and the recent job losses in the diocese, the Bishop-elect said, “I know that many people across the diocese have suffered hard times. The Troubles scarred many lives and we know from the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse that many people have terrible memories of their upbringing.
“But Pope Francis has given us all huge encouragement to be people of faith in the realities of our time and environment. There is no solid future that can be built on pride, revenge, greed or scorn for others who are weaker or different from ourselves. The Church is not just for ‘people like us’.”
Born on April 12 1950, Bishop Donal McKeown was brought up in Randalstown, Co Antrim as the first of four children of a local watchmaker and school teacher.
He played Gaelic football and hurling with Creggan Kickhams GAA club, attending Saint Mac Nissi’s College, Garron Tower (1961-68), before studying at Queen’s University, Belfast from 1968 to 1973, staying in the diocesan seminary at Saint Malachy’s College.
Five years study of philosophy and theology followed in Rome at the Gregorian Pontifical University, before he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Down and Connor in July 1977.
The Bishop-elect has spent his entire 37 years as a priest in the Down and Connor diocese, largely centred around Belfast, teaching in Saint Patrick’s College in East Belfast, Saint MacNissi’s College and later Saint Malachy’s College, Belfast.
In 2001 he was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Down and Connor.