Bishop appointing morale booster for priests suffering 'at coalface'
Priests have "clearly suffered a lot" and need support structures to help raise their morale, the Catholic Bishop of Limerick has warned.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Bishop Brendan Leahy revealed he has created two new offices in his diocese, one of which is aimed specifically at boosting priests' morale as many of them are still reeling from the fallout of the abuse scandals.
Dr Leahy, who next month will celebrate his first year in office, said he has appointed Fr Muiris O'Connor as episcopal vicar for the pastoral care of priests.
It is an entirely new position and will be full-time, such is the importance of the role in the eyes of the bishop.
Comparing priests with a seismograph, Dr Leahy said priests are the ones registering the earthquake that is going through the church in terms of changes, new structures and a transition to a new era.
"They are on the ground day in and day out, feeling the pressures at the coalface. There is no doubt that the church is in a period of huge transition. Things will not be as they once were. There will be less priests in the future and changes of practice.
"It is my hope that the episcopal vicar for the pastoral care of priests might begin to accompany priests at what is a delicate moment in the life of the church."
Another newly created role in the diocese has been the appointment of Fr Eamon Fitzgibbon as Limerick's first episcopal vicar for pastoral planning. This position is aimed at working out a future direction for the diocese.
"The church will no longer be the way it used to be. That sounds sad but I don't see it that way, I see it as God opening a new door to enter through and there is a sense of adventure about that," Dr Leahy said.
On the recent flooding in Limerick city, Dr Leahy said those affected "are living in very difficult circumstances that require action which can't be delayed".
"I would hope that the money that has been promised, but not just the money, the commitments and the joined-up thinking, will be delivered on."
He said that all the talk of the City of Culture had focused attention on the city's artistic and cultural initiatives and this was good as it was a "very rich vein" in the life of the city.
However, he called for the City of Culture to expand its understanding of culture to include a culture of care for those who are less well off and on the margins and address some of the problematic issues in parts of the city.
He said the sentencing of John Dundon to life in prison in 2013 for the murder of Shane Geoghegan marked a turning point for Limerick and a line in the sand psychologically for the people of the city.
One of the church's newest bishops also described alcohol as the country's "national wound" and said healing that wound is something Irish society must work on to help psyches scarred by its abuse.