Opinion

Monday 20 November 2017

Catholic Church here crying out for leaders to follow in Francis's footsteps

'Pope Francis has by now clearly charted a new way, a new presentation of the ‘Good News of the Gospel’, based on openness, listening and courage.' Photo: REUTERS/Tony Gentile
'Pope Francis has by now clearly charted a new way, a new presentation of the ‘Good News of the Gospel’, based on openness, listening and courage.' Photo: REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Fr Tony Flannery

There are many reasons for pessimism about the state of religious faith, and in particular of our Catholic Church, in Ireland today. The obvious ones, the drastic decline in church attendance and in recruits to the priesthood, have been well documented.

In the last couple of months, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) conducted a series of meetings with priests around the country in order to give them an opportunity to talk freely about their lives. The reports are on the ACP website. They make for sad and disturbing reading.

To put it mildly, the priesthood in Ireland is not in a good place. Priests are an ageing group who find themselves with a greater burden of work and responsibility than when they were younger and more energetic. Now they are mostly in their 70s and in a much more stressful environment. The climate of the times is to a fair degree antagonistic to what they stand for. Many are tired and demoralised. Some would love to retire, but cannot do so without having their own accommodation, and some private income, which few have. So they soldier on, often with little enthusiasm for the task.

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