'The church has to face reality' - Priests to be responsible for multiple parishes

More than 30 priests have died in one diocese since February 2020, and just one has been ordained
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.11 4 Jul 2022

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'The church has to face realit...

'The church has to face reality' - Priests to be responsible for multiple parishes

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.11 4 Jul 2022

Share this article

Priests are set to be responsible for multiple parishes in Ireland's largest Catholic diocese due to the declining number of clergy.

The measures in the Dublin archdiocese have been described as 'critical' by one parish priest.

Fr Aquinas Duffy says 34 priests have died in the diocese since February 2020 - and just one has been ordained.


A new strategy, called 'Building Hope', is encouraging parishes to group together.

The changes have already begun in areas such as Donnybrook, Booterstown and Foxrock.

Fr Duffy, the parish priest of Cabinteely, says serious consideration needs to be given to other measures.

"I think clearly the proposal of appointing one priest to a number of parishes is only a temporary solution.

"Ultimately the church has to face the reality, they have to look at issues of ordaining women, of married clergy, etc.

"And indeed, maybe, even models of looking at how the community can actually choose who their priest is to be ordained who'll provide the eucharist for them."

While he says it will be impossible for priests to carry out the numbers of funerals required.

"I think one of the areas for instance that will need to be addressed is the whole area of funerals.

"In some parishes they have up to 300 funerals a year, so clearly it won't be possible for one priest to do all of those funerals in the way that we currently do them.

"So I would envisage that there would be laypeople trained to preside at funeral services, and to also do the burial or cremation services".

Image by kisistvan77 from Pixabay

Mary Cunniffe, from the Irish Association of Funeral Directors, says choosing a time and location for a funeral mass is no longer an option for many.

"Some families would have the expectation that the priest is there and that they can have their funeral on Tuesday at 11 o'clock or Wednesday at 10 o'clock - whatever it might be.

"But we have to make it known to the families now that we will be having the funeral whenever the church and the priest is available.

"The expectation that you can have a funeral on the day you want and the time you want, that's no longer there".

And Fr Duffy says the age profile of existing priests is also a concern.

"There are concerns clearly about the workload that might be involved, and what it will mean in reality.

"The age profile is increasing all the time - the average age now in the archdiocese of Dublin - they're all over-70.

"So very difficult for somebody of that age to take on a number of parishes and to take on that extra responsibility.

"So clearly it can't be just business as usual in each of those parishes.

"There has to be another way... it can't continue the way it is now".

Reporting by: Aoife Kearns

Main image: A priest celebrates a Catholic mass in Paris, France in April 2012. Picture by: robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

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Cabinteely Catholic Church Dublin Archdiocese Eucharist Fr Aquinas Duffy Ireland Irish Association Of Funeral Directors Mary Cunniffe Priest Shortage Priests

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