Lay people to play greater part in a 'looser' Catholic Church
Lay people are set to have a "much more central and critical role" in the Catholic Church in the near future, says Fr Tim Bartlett.
The priest, who previously worked as an assistant to Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady, said there will need to be an acceptance of a "looser, more evolving" organisational set-up within the Church.
"Those who are maybe inclined to want to go back to a clear, authoritarian, black and white structure and relationship, I don't think that's where we're going or where the Church should and wants to be," Fr Bartlett said.
"I think at an organisational level, we haven't even begun to fully appreciate the radical changes that lie ahead.
"I can't imagine what the Church 20 years from now will be like and how different it will be, given the changes that have already happened in my 52 years."
Fr Bartlett, who is a priest of Down and Connor diocese and previously worked in the Republic and the North on conflict reconcil-iation and other societal issues, said he thinks we are at a "defining moment for humanity".
He acknowledged that Church rituals in Ireland may not be attracting the same participation as in the past, but does not believe it means there is an absence of faith in society.
"We need to recognise how faith is being expressed in ordinary everyday things and look to see how we can reconnect people with the Eucharist and the scriptures," Fr Bartlett said.
"One thing we can be absolutely certain of is the lay faithful will have a much more central and critical role in terms of the administration, of parishes and Church life and the actual proclamation and celebration of the faith in whatever expression is appropriate. I think the Church is already accepting that reality and trying to reorder the infrastructure to reorder that reality. That takes time," he added.
He believes a visit by Pope Francis would be a "pivotal moment" in Irish society and culture.