LEICESTER, United Kingdom – The Isle of Man, a small British Crown Dependency located between Ireland and Great Britain, will receive a Catholic cathedral for the first time in the predominantly Anglican island’s history.
The church of Saint Mary of the Isle, located in the city of Douglas, has been granted cathedral status, and will be a co-cathedral for the Archdiocese of Liverpool alongside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, and will be the first Catholic cathedral in the British Isles.
There are 84,000 people on the Island of Man, about 53 percent of whom are Christian, and only a small number are Catholic, attending six churches.
Though not belonging to the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man forms part of the Archdiocese of Liverpool, with most Catholics either being Irish or of Irish descent, thanks largely to historic trading routes.
“It is with great joy that St. Mary of the Isle has been granted cathedral status,” said Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool.
“The Isle of Man is a significant part of our archdiocese; it constitutes one third of its land mass 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 – a status that is rare in the Catholic Church. It is something that everyone on the island will take great pride in,” he said in a statement.
Monsignor John Devine, pastor of St. Mary of the Isle, said he was “delighted” the church had been granted cathedral status by Pope Francis.
“It has been a year-long process to get to this point. I was first approached by Douglas Borough Council who pointed out that cities have cathedrals, the island already has an Anglican cathedral in Peel on the west coast of the island, but they enquired whether it would be possible to elevate the church of Saint Mary of the Isle, Douglas, to the status of a cathedral,” he said, describing how the decision was made.
He said that McMahon, on the advice of canon lawyers, petitioned the pope with a request supported by the Anglican Bishop of Sodor and Man, Right Revered Peter Eagles.
“It is not just an honor for Douglas, but it acknowledges the unique faith story of the Isle of Man,” Devine said.
“Christianity in the Isle of Man traces its roots to the time of St. Patrick and St Maughold, in the 5th century. But there is limited appreciation of the unique history and traditions of the Manx Church in the rest of the archdiocese,” he said.
While few of the island’s Catholics identify with Liverpool, Devine said that 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. 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.”
In his own statement, Eagles said the new Catholic cathedral represented the “strong ecumenical relationships” present on the Isle of Man.
“It has often occurred to me that Saint Mary of the Isle has a dignity and spaciousness that is as appropriate for a cathedral as for a parish church and I fully support the bestowing of co-cathedral status,” he said.
Although co-cathedrals – typically present where a diocese has more than one ruling seat – are fairly common in the worldwide Catholic Church, the establishment in the Isle of Man is a historic designation, being the first in the British Isles.