‘Much of what Catholic Church built up is crumbling before our eyes,’ says new bishop

In his homily, Bishop Michael Duignan described the Irish church as standing at a “threshold moment”. Stock image

Sarah MacDonald

The new Bishop of Galway has said that “much of what the church has built up in Ireland over the last two centuries is crumbling before our eyes”.

Addressing 1,400 people gathered in Galway’s Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas for his installation ceremony yesterday, Bishop Michael Duignan said that many parishes in the Irish church “are struggling” despite “the great work done by generations of priests, religious and lay people”.

He admitted that there would be “a sense of genuine mourning” in letting go of infrastructure, systems, and pastoral practices that were beneficial in the past but now may “hinder rather than help the life of faith”.

“It is clear that in the future, we will be a smaller faith community” as many no longer believe, he said. Speaking to the Irish Independent after the ceremony, Dr Duignan said he did not intend to be pessimistic.

“I believe there are a lot of structures that we need to move on from in order to develop new structures. It is rebirth, it is regrowth, it is a reality check.”

A decrease in the number of masses offered by parishes was one change he highlighted and said it would allow for more holistic and spirit-filled liturgies.

“People know change is coming, they know that the present way we are doing things won’t last forever and that there may be a better way of doing things,” he said.

In his homily, Dr Duignan described the Irish church as standing at a “threshold moment” and making a transition to the future.

He prayed the church would build bridges not barriers and that it would reach out in compassion to aid those who find themselves in need.

He also prayed that it would be “less afraid of those who see life differently from us” and was aware of its own human weakness.

Elsewhere he expressed the hope that the church would be a faith community that finds its appropriate place within Irish society and Irish society finds “a fair place for people of faith”, and that people, priests and the bishop walk side by side “in a truly synodal manner”.

Galway is the youngest diocese in Ireland, and the 51-year-old is the first Bishop of Galway to be born after the Cathedral was consecrated in 1965. He succeeds Bishop Brendan Kelly.

Meanwhile it was announced yesterday that the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Okolo’s term of office in Ireland is ending after six years.