Tuesday 10 December 2019

Weekly Masses cut by a third as crisis in Church deepens due to declining priest numbers

Cut: Bishop of Ossory Dermot Farrell says his diocese has more churches than it needs.
Photo: John McElroy
Cut: Bishop of Ossory Dermot Farrell says his diocese has more churches than it needs. Photo: John McElroy
Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

Ireland is facing a Mass crisis as parishes across the country face having services cut because of the decline in the number of priests taking up vocations.

Frequent weekly Sunday Mass could become a thing of the past, clerics are warning.

They say an inability to attract younger people to Mass is an ominous sign for the future of the Church.

It comes as Bishop of Ossory Dermot Farrell announced Sunday Masses in the Ossory diocese will be decreased by 140 to 92 from December 1.

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He said the cut in services was because the diocese has more churches than is needed, causing a shortage in resources across the Kilkenny, Laois and Offaly parishes.

"They were built in a different era, when there were very poor roads and no transport, so people had to walk to church. And you had far more going," he said.

"Everybody practically has access to a car. We're celebrating these Masses in all of these churches with sometimes small congregations.

"Therefore, you have a shortage of resources. You need ministers of the Eucharist, you need readers, you need collectors.

"It doesn't make sense to be splintering these things across multiple Masses that you don't actually need to accommodate people."

The bishop said it is likely that not all churches will be providing a Mass on Sunday in the near future.

None of the other parishes contacted would comment on whether they would also be cutting back on Mass offerings.

Fr Roy Donovan, of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), said: "There is a massive amount of churches, but some communities have no priests, which is going to happen more and more, and that's going to lead to churches closing, and that's very sad."

He said young people are not attending services because they can't relate to "grey and white" priests.

He told the Irish Independent: "It's not good having all older people leading liturgies or leading Masses, because when young people don't see any of their own age group involved and they actually don't know any priests any more, the connections are becoming weakened.

"As long as they hold onto a male, celibate priesthood, it's not going to encourage younger people to become involved.

"You need younger leaders in the Church.

"Young people in their 20s and 30s, they need to see their age group involved and using their language and relating to their experiences."

Fr Donovan said only allowing an "elite group" of celibate men to become priests is sending out the "wrong message" to young people.

"We're sending out the wrong messages that religion and Christianity is only for older people. That's sad, really," he said.

"We won't certainly in the future be providing Mass in every church on Sunday."

The association, which represents more than 1,000 Catholic priests in Ireland, last month warned that the vocations crisis has become so critical that basic sacraments such as baptisms and marriages are likely to "disappear" from some parishes in the near future.

Irish Independent

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