Nine vacancies offer chance to revive Church
NINE vacancies will soon occur in the 26 dioceses in the Republic and Northern Ireland.
This represents an unprecedented one-third of the total, and these nine posts will need to be filled by the German Pontiff.
These sweeping changes in the personnel of the Irish hierarchy will provide Pope Benedict with the opportunity over the next two years to appoint a younger generation of "new blood" priests to a jaded bench of bishops.
Three existing bishoprics have become due for new men as a result of two resignations and one removal last year over the mishandling of child clerical abuse complaints.
Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, a former secretary to three popes, was removed from office and given the title of former bishop by Pope Benedict after he was found by the bishops' own independent watchdog to have failed to implement agreed child-protection procedures.
The resignation of Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, was accepted by the Pope in the immediate aftermath of the Murphy report last November; while Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Jim Moriarty, also criticised in the Murphy report, submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict. He is awaiting news of its acceptance, which may be announced today.
In the next two years, another six bishops will retire on age grounds.
The popular Bishop of Killalloe, Willie Walsh, and the sturdy Colm O'Reilly of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, have already offered their resignations to the Holy Father on reaching the obligatory retirement age of 75, as has the vastly experienced Bishop of Clogher, Joe Duffy, the head of the Episcopal communications commission. Also due to step down in the near future at 75 is Bishop of Elphin, Christopher Jones.
Two Dublin auxiliary bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field, are still waiting for their resignations to be approved by Pope Benedict.