Church 'should hold lay-led services on weekdays' due to priest shortage
Services without priests should be held on weekdays to prepare parishes for a worsening shortage in vocations, a Catholic Synod has heard.
The matter was discussed at the first Synod in Ireland in 50 years, which also heard how women must play a much more important and inclusive role in the Church.
Some 400 delegates spent three days at the Limerick Diocesan Synod where they voted on 100 proposals to help map out the future of the Catholic Church in a time of falling vocations. A motion to establish a working group to explore how and where women can play a leadership role in the governance of the Church received the highest number of priority votes at the Synod.
A proposal to develop and support lay-led liturgies and the celebration of sacraments was supported by more than 90pc of delegates.
Fr Eugene Duffy, a lecturer in theology and religious studies at Mary Immaculate College, said occasional lay-led liturgies without priests should be introduced on weekdays.
He said it would be a way of preparing for the reality of priests not being available to every parish in the years ahead.
"If we can get used to having lay-led liturgy on weekdays first, then people will begin to appreciate it, understand it, grow in their own acceptance of it and see the value of it," he said.
"In the absence of a priest, that's what they will have to do on a Sunday. We have to start by doing it on a weekday and then people become familiar with it. The foundational thing that people have to do is to gather on a Sunday to worship, however we do it."
Fr Duffy also said that the Catholic Church can learn from the Church of Ireland.
"The Church of Ireland has readers who look after the liturgy on a Sunday if an ordained Minister cannot be present. We are going to have to get used to this situation and have no option [but] to prepare for it. Otherwise there is going to be a trauma some Sunday."
The role of women in the Church was also debated as part of the universal themes that were discussed but could not be voted on.
Vincent Hanley, a delegate from Knockaderry/Clouncagh, said the issue of women priests was a recurrent theme.
The three-day Synod was the culmination of a listening process that engaged the views of 5,000 people in order to identify the biggest issues facing the Catholic Church.
"Up to now we have been very pragmatic in our discussions, but there are elephants in the room and especially the situation around women priests," he said.
Only three of the 100 proposals were rejected, one of which was a motion to move the age of confirmation to 16. Proposals for the creation of a diocesan residential retreat centre and a motion on bringing priests from abroad were also rejected.