The announcement of the changes was made on April 10 by Argentine Archbishop Luis Montemayor, Papal Nuncio in Ireland. Photo: Caminos Religiosos

Ireland Will Undergo a Diocese Restructuring by the Pope

The restructuring of the ecclesial government in Ireland, after nine centuries without marked changes, will reduce the number of Bishops in the West of the country.

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(ZENIT News / Dublin, 25.04.2024).- The borders of Ireland’s 26 dioceses have remained practically unchanged  since the 12th century. The decrease in attendance of religious services and in the number of priests calls for a restructuring of the whole Church in a country of great Catholic tradition.

The announcement of the changes was made on April 10 by Argentine Archbishop Luis Montemayor, Papal Nuncio in Ireland. The number of Bishops in the western region is being reduced from six to three.

The reorganization will see the Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Francis Duffy, be the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Killala, after the retirement of Bishop John Fleming. Dr Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin will also be appointed Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Achonry, whose Bishop, Dr Paul Demsey, is moving to Dublin as Auxiliary Bishop to work especially with young people.

Already in 2021, the Bishop of Clonfert took the direction of Galway and Kilmacduagh and the Apostolic Administration of Kilfenora. The metropolitan province of Tuam, which encompasses the greater part of the West of Ireland, will only have three Bishops.

The small size of some of the dioceses calls for greater service to the faithful. For example, the diocese of Achonry, with a population of 40,000 people, has only 23 parishes.

The Apostolic Nuncio said:  “In due course, and after a careful evaluation and consultation, the present dioceses of Tuam and Kilala, on one hand, and Elphin and Achonry, on the other, could be governed by a Bishop in each case, as the dioceses of Galway and Clonfert are governed today by only one. If this process evolves even more, the associated dioceses can then fuse completely under their Bishop and, in this way, the six diocese of the province of Tuam will eventually become three.”

In the Ráth Breasail Synod of the year 1111, the transition took place  of the monastic system in the government of the Church to the diocesan system. It was followed by the Kells Synod in 1152, which established four metropolitan provinces: Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Tuam, which continue at present. Only in 1831 was the diocese of Galway established; the fusion of Ross with Cork occurred in 1958.

It’s important to point out that the western area of Ireland is very rural and sparsely populated, with the exception of the city of Galway and its suburban belt, and some larger cities, such as Sligo and Castlebar.

Instead, about 40% of the Republic’s population lives in Dublin and in the adjacent counties of Wicklow, Kildare and Meath.

Ireland’s Catholic immigrant population has saved many parishes from extinction. The reduction of dioceses responds to the decrease of the Catholic population and the lack of priests.

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Rafael Llanes

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