Belfast Telegraph

Catholic churches may be forced to axe Sunday Mass

Ireland is facing a Mass crisis as parishes across the island consider cutting services due to a decline in the number of people taking up vocations. (stock picture)
Ireland is facing a Mass crisis as parishes across the island consider cutting services due to a decline in the number of people taking up vocations. (stock picture)

By Aoife Walsh

Ireland is facing a Mass crisis as parishes across the island consider cutting services due to a decline in the number of people taking up vocations.

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

An inability to attract younger people is an ominous sign for the future of the Catholic Church.

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

He said services were being cut because the diocese had more churches than it needed, causing a shortage in resources across parishes in Kilkenny, Laois and Offaly.

"(The churches) 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 added.

"Practically everybody has access to a car. We're celebrating Mass in these churches with 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 was likely not all churches would provide Sunday Mass in the near future.

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

But 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. That's going to lead to churches closing and that's sad."

He claimed young people were not attending services because they could not relate to "grey and white" priests.

"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 don't know any priests anymore, the connections become weakened," Fr Donovan added.

"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 need to see their age group involved. (They need to see priests) using their language and relating to their experiences."

Fr Donovan stressed that allowing only an "elite group" of celibate men to become priests was sending out bad signals to the younger generations.

"We're sending out the wrong message, 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 ACP, which represents more than 1,000 Catholic priests in Ireland, last month waned the vocations crisis had become so critical that basic sacraments, such as baptisms and marriages, were likely to "disappear" from some parishes in the near future.

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