Irish School of Ecumenics

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The Irish School of Ecumenics (ISE) is an institute of Trinity College, Dublin, dedicated to the study and promotion of peace and reconciliation in Ireland and throughout the world. The school is located in Dublin and Belfast, and consists of eight permanent full-time academic staff, visiting academic staff, postdoctoral fellows, and administrative staff.[1] ISE has 82 M.Phil students and 39 Ph.D. and M.Litt research students.[1]


The Irish School of Ecumenics was co-founded in 1970 by Father Michael Hurley, S.J., who also served as the school's director until 1980.[2] Father Hurley, a Jesuit priest, was a strong proponent of ecumenism.[2][3]

Father Hurley and the establishment of the Irish School of Ecumenics were strongly opposed by the then Archbishop of Dublin of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid.[2][3] Diocesan archival documents released in the 2000s revealed that Father Hurley and the school caused Archbishop McQuaid "anguish."[2] Archbishop McQuaid, a deeply conservative Catholic, responded by banning Father Hurley from speaking within his "sphere of jurisdiction," meaning the Archbishop of Dublin.[2] However, McQuaid reneged on the ban following the intervention by Fr Cecil McGarry, Dublin's Jesuit provincial, on Hurley's behalf.[2]

Archbishop McQuaid died in 1973. He was succeeded by Archbishop Dermot Ryan, who remained displeased by the activities of the School of Ecumenics and Father Hurley.[2] Father Hurley stepped down as the director in 1980 saying, "towards the end of the school’s first decade it seemed best to remove myself from the scene."[2] The relationship between Irish School of Ecumenics'and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin slowly began to improve.[2]

Cardinal Desmond Connell, who served as Archbishop of Dublin between 1988 and 2004, later became the first archbishop to become a formal patron of the Irish School of Ecumenics.[2]

Archival papers related to Archbishop John Charles McQuaid's opposition to the School of Ecumenism were uncovered by the Archdiocese of Dublin in the 2000s.[2] In 2008, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin issued an apology to Father Hurley for his treatment by Archbishop McQuaid during the late 1960s and early 1970s.[3] The face-to-face apology, which was described as "good-humored" by the Irish Times, took place at the Milltown Jesuit community in South Dublin.[2] Archbishop Martin apologized to Hurley for the "for some misunderstandings on the part of my predecessors."[2] Father Hurley, who called Martin's speech a "magnanimous apology," stated that he felt a "great sense of relief and joy and gratitude."[2]

Father Michael Hurley, the Irish School of Ecumenics' co-founder, died in 2011.[3]


The Irish School of Ecumenics has eight full-time staff members. The Dublin location of the ISE is on the campus of Trinity College Dublin as a part of the new Loyola Institute. The Belfast location of ISE is in north Belfast in its own building. The Irish School of Ecumenics along with the Loyola Institute, which will have six full-time staff members, will compose a centre with common interests in the study of theology, peace, & reconciliation.


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