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Archbishop sends out his missionaries across city

Dublin has been officially declared "missionary territory" by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin amid falling church attendances.

A major plan to renew the Catholic Church in the country's biggest diocese was unveiled at the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass in the Pro-Cathedral. He said its aim is to restore idealism and generosity to a consumerist society which needed God.

Dr Martin announced that a Catholic Church representative will visit every household in the Dublin Archdiocese next year.

He predicted his evangelisation programme would promote greater co-operation between lay people and priests in the Church's mission and ministry.

The archbishop announced that initiatives will include convening a Diocesan Pastoral Council of priests and laity, the establishment of Diocesan Office for Evangelisation and a training programme for lay pastoral workers in parishes.

Grappling with an ageing clergy and dwindling numbers of recruits to the priesthood, Dr Martin went out of his way to praise his "great priests", and encouraged them to convince young people that they were fulfilled in their ministry.

"Renewal in the diocese means reaching out to as many people as possible in a missionary spirit," he continued. "Today there is a true sense in which the Archdiocese of Dublin is mission territory".

He praised the extraordinary commitment of lay people to service in parishes, diocesan agencies and schools.

"It is encouraging to see lay people emerging as co-workers in pastoral care, and, there are many people who are waiting to do more within the church and to do things differently.

"Some will say that we are opening up to lay involvement as a stop-gap solution to the shortage of priests. But if we look on lay involvement as a stop-gap solution, it will simply fizzle out."

Today Archbishop Martin will lead the annual Way of the Cross procession in the Phoenix Park which begins at 12.30pm from the Wellington monument to the papal cross. This Good Friday service is organised by the lay Communion and Liberation movement.

His call was mirrored by the Administrator of Tuam who yesterday said there is a need to reclaim the "sacred space" of the day Our Lord died.

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Fr Stephen Farragher said: "There was a time when Good Friday was sacrosanct and any businesses that opened in the morning closed at 3pm.

"But all this seems to be changing and more premises are slipping the trap of remaining open all day.

"In many mainland European countries, Good Friday is still observed with street processions in the afternoon especially in Italy, parts of Germany and Spain."

And in a letter to the public this week, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore William Lee has made a desperate plea for people to consider priesthood as a way of life.

The last ordination of a clergyman in the diocese was eight years ago.

"Shortly there will be a number of parishes which will not have a priest of their own but will be sharing with other parishes," he wrote.

Details of Holy Week and Easter celebrations can be found at www.catholiccommunications.ie.

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