A BISHOP who was embroiled in controversy earlier this year over the introduction of male-only deacons is to be promoted to be Archbishop of Cashel and Emly.
The forthcoming appointment of Bishop Kieran O'Reilly of Killaloe as Archbishop Dermot Clifford's successor is being read as in keeping with Pope Francis's desire for a missionary church.
On Saturday, the Vatican announced the appointment of the 62-year-old former missionary following the resignation of Archbishop Clifford on grounds of age.
The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, greeted the news by paying tribute to Bishop O'Reilly's wide experience of mission in Liberia and Nigeria.
Bishop O'Reilly also has four years' experience at the helm of an Irish diocese and over 20 years in Rome as superior general of the Society of African Missions.
He will move from Ennis to Thurles in early 2015, at which time he will become one of four metropolitan archbishops in the Irish hierarchy.
The controversy which blew up this autumn caught the Irish church completely by surprise and resulted in Bishop O'Reilly suspending the introduction of the male-only permanent diaconate - the name for a body of deacons. A number of the members of the women's forum 'Seeds of Hope', who led the opposition to the diaconate, work with the bishop at a diocesan level and personally think highly of him.
He said he had "listened very carefully" to people's concerns.
For them the issue was a matter of principle about the role of the laity and sticking to an agreed diocesan pastoral plan.
Bishop O'Reilly met with outgoing Archbishop Clifford and Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Thurles on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Papal Nuncio has responded to an Irish Independent investigation into the Achill Island 'House of Prayer' by urging anyone who feels they have been mistreated by persons involved with the movement to go to the gardai.
Archbishop Brown cited a 2008 investigation by the Archdiocese of Tuam into the purported visions of Christina Gallagher and miracle healings at the Achill retreat.
The Nuncio said that investigation had resulted in a formal statement from Archbishop Neary in Tuam in which he instructed that the "celebration of the sacraments and reservation of the Blessed Sacrament at the 'House of Prayer' are not permitted".
"Any work carried on since then has been entirely of a private nature and has no Church approval whatever," Archbishop Brown said.