Irish Diaspora - Religion


Irish bishop Paul Cullen set out to spread Irish dominance over the English-speaking Catholic Church in the 19th century. The establishment of an 'Irish Episcopal Empire' involved three transnational entities - the British Empire, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Irish diaspora. Irish clergy, notably Cullen, made particular use of the reach of the British Empire to spread their influence. From the 1830s until his death in 1878, Cullen held several key positions near the top of the Irish hierarchy and influenced Rome's appointment of Irish bishops on four continents. By contrast, a number of Irish people abroad converted to Asian religions and played significant roles in anti-colonial revival movements, such as the Irish Buddhist monk U Dhammaloka (?Laurence Carroll?) in Burma, Buddhist sympathiser Lafcadio Hearn in Japan, the Hindu nun Sister Sanghamitta (Margaret Noble) and the Theosophist Hindu couple James and Margaret Cousins.

Walker (2007) compares Irish immigrant communities in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Great Britain respecting issues of identity and 'Irishness.' Religion remained the major cause of differentiation in all Irish diaspora communities and had the greatest impact on identity, followed by the nature and difficulty of socio-economic conditions faced in each new country and the strength of continued social and political links of Irish immigrants and their descendants with the old country.

From the late 20th century onward, Irish identity abroad became increasingly cultural, non-denominational, and non-political, although many emigrants from Northern Ireland stood apart from this trend. However, Ireland as religious reference point is now increasingly significant in neopagan contexts.

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