The 185-year-old St Malachy's seminary opened just four years after Catholic Emancipation

St Malachy’s Seminary, the only Catholic seminary in Northern Ireland, is to close in September, Church authorities have announced.

The Diocese of Down and Connor said it took the decision after Queen’s University Belfast – where seminarians study for their degrees – closed its Department of Scholastic Philosophy and progressively withdrew modules in the subject. This placed a “great strain on the required philosophical training of clerical students”, the diocese said.

From September this year, all seminarians will be relocated elsewhere to continue their training.

Bishop William Crolly founded the seminary in 1833, just four years after Catholic Emancipation.

“The closure of the diocesan seminary is a sad moment for all, not least for all those who have worked closely alongside the formation team and who have contributed immensely to the formation of the seminarians,” the diocese said.

“The diocese of Down and Connor is deeply indebted to all those who have contributed to St Malachy’s Seminary over the years. In particular, it thanks the current formation team under the direction of Fr Michael Spence, the Rector of the Seminary.

“The diocese also recognises the huge contribution of diocesan priests and the Jesuit Community in Belfast who, over the years, have shared their insight, expertise and provided ongoing spiritual direction and assisted with human development programmes for the seminarians.”