Ireland: Diocesan Restructuring Due to Lack of Priests and Faithful

Source: FSSPX News

Archbishop Luis Mariano Montemayor, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland

Archbishop Luis Mariano Montemayor, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, announced that the Holy See was going to restructure the Church’s historic dioceses in the west of the country. One of the ecclesiastical provinces will go from six to three dioceses.

Thus, in the ecclesiastical province of Tuam, three episocipal seats which recently became vacant will not be filled: for now, these dioceses will be managed by the bishops of neighboring dioceses. In the medium term, this could lead to a reduction of the six current dioceses to three.

On Wednesday, the Vatican announced that the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. Francis Duffy, would take charge of the Diocese of Killala and that the Bishop of Elphin, Dr. Kevin Doran, would run the Diocese of Anchonry. Since 2022, the Dioceses of Galway and Clonfert have been led by a single bishop.

It should be noted that the boundaries of the 26 Irish dioceses have remained largely unchanged since the 12th century. However, the decline in attendance at religious services and the number of priests requires a restructuring of the country’s ecclesiastical districts.

There Are Virtually No Seminarians in the Entire Country

The Irish Examiner reported in January 2022 that around 20% of Catholic priests and brothers had died in the space of three years, according to public Church statistics. Of the approximately 1,800 priests active at the end of 2018 and 720 retired members of the clergy, about one in five had died by the end of 2021, according to the report.

“We are all aware of an ageing priest population, but it is only when you look at the figures that you realise what a high number it is,” commented Fr. John Collins of the Association of Catholic Priests. Because of this, parishes will have to merge and fewer Masses will be celebrated.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Farrell (67), then emphasized in an interview that the Church was facing a “radical change” which would bring a new energy and new ways of serving. He told the Catholic News Service (CNS) that the transformation of ecclesial structures was already underway.

Already in 2018, the Belfast seminary, one of the two seminaries still active in Ireland, had to close its doors, leaving only the Maynooth seminary on the island to form future Irish priests, to which must be added the Pontifical Irish College of Rome. The National Seminary of St. Patrick’s College Maynooth was built for 800 students.

It never housed that many but was able, in the past, to accomodate 500 future priests. In July 2023, Fr. Michael Collins wrote in the Catholic Herald: “Today, there are just 20 diocesan seminarians in formation for the entire island of Ireland. The regional seminaries closed decades ago. The glory days are far behind us.”

A Necessary Pastoral Renewal

In November 2023, the diocese of the Irish capital published a report on the necessity of a pastoral renewal, in the face of major challenges, such as the collapse in the number of priests and financial revenue. “Some forms of ecclesial life could disappear,” Archbishop Farrell stated.

The aim is to provide parochial structures for the future, the Archbishop of Dublin stated. Of the 312 priests working in the archdiocese, 139 are over 70 years old. Currently, there are only two seminarians at the seminary. The two most important communities in the transmission of Faith are the family and the parish, he concluded.

We should undoubtedly and above all consider--and not only in Ireland--returning to the path of tradition and ceasing to persist on the path of conciliar reforms and other synodal paths. The power of Christ has not diminished, but the faith of men is lacking.