The head of the Church of Ireland and one of the most influential Anglican leaders in the world, Archbishop Robin Eames, announced Monday his intention to retire by the end of the year.
Dr. Eames, 69, who serves as the Archbishop of Armagh, said he will step down on Dec. 31, 2006. The decision comes after much prayer, thought and discussion, the bishop of 31 years told the churchs General Synod.
Eames is regarded as one of the most outstanding Anglican leaders of the past century, and played a key role in guiding the global communion. He is widely known for his reconciliatory role in building the Catholic-Anglican relationship in Ireland a feat that even drew praise from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.
Eames is a person commanding trust from very many people, and has often very unobtrusively and at great risk worked for the cause of reconciliation in Northern Ireland, Williams said.
Catholic Primate Archbishop Sean Brady also praised Eames for his leadership to the Church of Ireland.
"His calm and dignified counsel, his compassionate and resolute foresight and his caring understanding have reassured many in the midst of turmoil and trouble," Brady said, according to BBC.
In recent years, Eames played a key role in maintaining unity within the global Anglican Communion, in light of rising tensions over the election of an openly homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church U.S.A.
Eames served as the chairman for the Lambeth Commission on Communion, and oversaw the development and release of the 2004 Windsor Report that promoted a culture of cautious and reverent dialogue when discussing the thorny issue of homosexuality in the church.
Eames was ordained in 1964, and was appointed archbishop in 1986.