The Catholic Church in Ireland could find itself “increasingly marginalized in public debate”, its senior bishop has warned, but Archbishop Eamon Martin said it must remain “prophetic”.
As a culmination of next month’s release of the Synodal Pathway Synodal Pathway Synod Document for the Irish Church, which has drawn tens of thousands of Catholics across the country in nine months of consultations, Dr. Martin that the next chapter in the life of the Irish Church will be different than before.
He said the synodal synthesis will reveal many challenges to the transmission of the faith, including the impact of “a major decline in the practice of the faith,” on vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and sacramental marriage.
In the synodal consultations, many people had called for more transparency, participation and accountability within parish and diocesan structures, he said.
They also stressed the importance of harnessing the energy and gifts of young people and finding new models of responsibility and leadership that recognize and promote the role of women.
The listening process showed the need to reach out to the many who have left the Church and, in some cases, feel left out, forgotten or ignored, the Church leader said.
The trip to the Synod, stressed the Archbishop of Armagh, comes at a critical juncture in the history of the Irish Church as 2029 would mark the 200th anniversary of Catholic emancipation and “a significant chapter in the life of the Church would come to an end here, and open a new one at the same time,” he said.
In the past, Dr. Martin, a church that has “contributed generously to health, education, and community cohesion, cared for the poor, and reached out to the marginalized in society.”
But he stressed that the dark side could not be ignored — “the failures in mission, the clergy and institutional abuse scandals, the clinging to power and status that sometimes dimmed the light of the gospel and left a legacy of pain and trauma in many.” .
The synodal consultations showed a need for healing and hope, he said.
Separately, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly has released a pastoral letter highlighting the aging profile of priests serving in the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly.
The average age of the 68 priests in the archdiocese is 67, and in five years only 35 priests will be below the retirement age, which is 75 for priests.
At the moment the diocese has only one man in priestly formation.
“It is clear that this staffing level will not continue,” said Dr. O’Reilly and warned that in light of this reality a change in the organization of parish life in the diocese would soon occur.
As part of a plan to deal with the projected shortage of priests, the diocese will form pastoral units comprising several parishes and lay people will participate in the work of the priests. The new pastoral units will be introduced in November.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/next-chapter-of-catholic-church-in-ireland-will-be-different-from-the-last-archbishop-of-armagh-41864164.html The next chapter of the Catholic Church in Ireland ‘will be different from the last’ – Archbishop of Armagh