Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Ulster, 1967-74

[UPDATE: the substance of this paper was published in my 2015 book on Ramsey.]

I was delighted last week to learn that a conference paper proposal has been accepted by the team on the
Protestant-Catholic Conflict: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Realities project at the Open University. The conference will be happening in Belfast in September; there are some further details in the Call for Papers (now closed).

Although I’ve spent most of the last four or five years thinking about Michael Ramsey, it is a slightly new departure for me to look at his role in an Irish context; and so I’m planning to be blogging about the work as it proceeds, and would very much welcome comments and criticism as I go. I’m particularly interested in views from scholars of Irish religious history.

To get things started, here is the abstract:

“Michael Ramsey was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1961 and 1974, and as such was the figurative head of the distinctive Protestant settlement of religion in the United Kingdom at the very beginning of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. This paper will examine the public pronouncements and private diplomacy of the archbishop from the late sixties until his retirement in 1974. It will investigate the delicate balancing act which Ramsey needed to perform between his multiple roles. The archbishop was the head of the established church and thus (in the eyes of some) the agent of an occupying power. He was at the same time leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and pastor and confidant of the Anglican episcopate in Northern Ireland. He was also a leading participant in the ecumenical movement in England and worldwide, and a close personal friend of Pope Paul VI. The period saw a continued weakening of political Protestantism in England, and at the same time unprecedented strengthening of relationships between Anglicans and English Roman Catholics; both currents which were disrupted and threatened by the eruption of conflict in Ulster. The paper will chart Ramsey’s attempts to negotiate these sharply conflicting currents, and will attempt to assess the extent of his success or failure in doing so.”

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