Dublin priest numbers set to fall 70pc by 2030, says diocesan study
Priest numbers will drop by as much as 70pc by 2030, according to new research on the Archdiocese of Dublin.
Other research findings include a predicted drop in Mass attendances of 33pc by 2030. While baptisms, communions and confirmations are predicted to remain stable over that period, the study predicts an average annual reduction in church marriages of 4pc.
The findings are published in a report complied on behalf of the Diocesan Priests Council which sets out the future trends for ministry and personnel numbers over the period 2014-2030.
The best-case scenario predicts a decline in priest numbers of 61pc, from 369 priests down to 144, provided religious orders maintain their current level of commitment in parishes.
However, if religious orders were to relinquish the parishes they currently serve, due to the ageing profile of their own priests, the drop by 2030 would be 70pc, leaving just 111 priests carrying out parish ministry across Dublin's 300 parishes.
Currently in Dublin, there are 276 diocesan priests and 110 priests belonging to religious orders, totalling 386 under the age of 75 as of 2014. Another 33 priests are aged between 75 and 80.
Other study findings predict that just one new priest under the age of 40 will join the priesthood in Dublin every year up to 2030.
At the other end of the scale, 57pc of the current priests serving in Dublin are over 60 years of age and this is projected to increase to 75pc by 2030.
The study warns of greater strain on younger priests with an increased workload as only 25pc will be under 60.
Among the potential options which the diocese will discuss is the possibility of recruiting new priests from overseas, reducing the number of Masses on offer, and allocating more work to volunteer lay people.
It will also look at "making it increasingly attractive to priests who are over 75 to remain involved in some capacity".