Vatican to finally name new bishops over Easter
THE Vatican is set to announce the appointment of several new Irish bishops over Easter.
The Irish Independent has learned that church officials expect the Vatican to fill at least two of the seven bishoprics which are currently vacant.
The appointments will be aimed at both drawing a line under the hugely damaging clerical-abuse controversy and restoring battered relations with the Government.
Limerick and Cloyne -- both of which have been without bishops for over three years -- are expected to be amongst the dioceses involved in the first round of appointments.
But it is thought extremely unlikely that Pope Benedict XVI will opt to fill all seven diocesan vacancies at the one time.
A church source said the installation of the new Papal Nuncio was seen as a prerequisite for any round of major diocesan appointments in Ireland.
Irish-American Charles Brown took up his duties earlier this month after being ordained an archbishop in January. He is expected to play a key role in helping the Irish church recover from the trauma of recent years.
One retired Cloyne cleric said priests in the Cork diocese expected to have their new bishop confirmed by Easter.
"The word is that the appointment is coming soon and that it will be seen as progressive," he said.
However, the Catholic Communications Office said it was unaware of any imminent appointments.
"The office has no information. This matter is the sole preserve of the Holy Father," said a spokesman.
Seven dioceses are now awaiting new bishops -- Cloyne, Limerick, Kildare and Leighlin, Derry, Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Elphin and Kerry.
Three dioceses -- Cloyne (Dr John Magee), Limerick (Dr Donal Murray) and Kildare and Leighlin (Dr Jim Moriarty) -- lost their bishops to resignation amid the controversy over the handling of abuse allegations.
Cloyne has now effectively been without a bishop for three years. Dr Magee stepped aside and the running of the diocese was taken over by the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford.
Limerick and Kildare and Leighlin have also been without bishops for over two years. The administrator of the Diocese of Limerick, Fr Tony Mullins, previously said he never expected an appointment would take more than two years.
Several of the other vacancies were created by bishops reaching the retirement age of 75.
Dr Colm O'Reilly (Ardagh and Clonmacnoise) offered his resignation to the Vatican in 2010 while Christopher Jones (Elphin) and Bill Murphy (Kerry) both turned 75 last year.
All three retain the full powers of a bishop and assist with running their dioceses.
Another vacancy in Derry was created when Dr Seamus Hegarty retired on health grounds last year.