Priesthood crisis is 'caused by hostility'
The Catholic Bishop of Kilmore has linked the crisis in vocations in the priesthood and religious life to hostility and antipathy towards the Church, which he said borders on persecution.
At a ceremony to honour the relics of St Oliver Plunkett, Bishop Leo O'Reilly said people from abroad are often "astonished at the antipathy to the Church displayed in our country".
Acknowledging that the Church today isn't subject to the kind of persecution that it experienced in the 17th century during St Oliver's ministry, Dr O'Reilly said nevertheless you didn't have to be "paranoid to believe that there is a kind of persecution of the Church taking place here all the same".
He said it was more subtle than physical persecution, and took the form of gradual exclusion of Church people or activities from the public space.
Dr O'Reilly also criticised the role the media has played in denigrating the role the Church plays in people's lives.
"There is denigration of religious beliefs, practices and institutions on radio, television and on social and other media.
"There is often a focus on bad news about the Church to the almost total exclusion of any good news."
Recalling a time when there were more newly ordained priests than vacancies for them to fill, the bishop highlighted that there has only been one ordination in Kilmore in the past 13 years and just one seminarian.
He warned that unless there is a dramatic change in the vocations trend, the future for the diocese is bleak. He said that in 10 years' time there are likely to be just 25 priests to cover 34 parishes.
Recently, it was warned that in the Diocese of Cork and Ross the priest shortage crisis is such that some Masses could be replaced by public prayers with no Communion in the years ahead.
The Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has also warned that Mass may not take place every Sunday in some parishes in the area due to a lack of priests.