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James Ussher (1581—1656) Church of Ireland archbishop of Armagh and scholar




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Church of Ireland

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Building on 4th‐cent. traces, Patrick evangelized Ireland (c.432) and developed a distinctively Celtic Christianity, but with the partial Anglo‐Norman conquest of Ireland the church again joined mainstream western Christendom. Though Henry VIII established the Church of Ireland after his break with Rome (1536), the Reformation was less popular than in England. The monasteries continued in Gaelic areas, friars pursued their ministry, and Jesuits arrived (c.1545). The Reformation largely failed. Gaelic, which most Irishmen spoke, was forbidden in worship and the established church was inextricably associated with the colonizing offices of state. After 1580 missionary priests poured in, but Anglo‐Scottish colonization of Ulster (c.1610) made it the bastion of protestantism, Ussher's 104 Irish Articles (1615) were Calvinistic in ethos, and Cromwell further antagonized Irish opinion by confiscating catholic land and allowing protestants economic predominance. William III's promise of toleration (1691) was a dead letter until 1791. After the Anglican archbishoprics were reduced to two and bishoprics by eight (1833), the church, always predominantly evangelical, was disestablished (1869). Today with two archbishoprics and twelve dioceses, it has a total membership (2000) of 375,000 (281,000 in the North and 94,000 in the Republic).

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