Irish dioceses will be merged under a single bishop to “rationalize” the Catholic hierarchy

Pope Francis has announced his intention to reorganize the Catholic Dioceses of Clonfert and Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora into a union under one bishop, in a new start for the Irish Church.

he movement seems to aim to rationalize the Irish hierarchy without depriving any city of its cathedral.

It was announced by Bishop Michael Duignan of Clonfert and Bishop Brendan Kelly of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, who currently oversee the two dioceses.

Bishop Kelly is 75 years old and has therefore reached retirement age. It is likely that Bishop Duignan will assume the role of Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora when Bishop Kelly retires.

In a letter to the faithful of their dioceses, the two church leaders declared that this form of union of two dioceses under one bishop is not a merger and does not abolish either of the two dioceses.

“The two dioceses will continue to maintain their integrity and autonomy as they are, but will work more closely together, to the extent possible, through the person and ministry of one bishop,” the letter said.

Diocesan structures and institutions such as cathedral churches, curiae offices and officials, and diocesan pastoral councils, as well as diocesan lands, bank accounts, property and charities in each of the respective dioceses will remain unchanged.

The only real change will be that a single bishop exercises equal pastoral governance of the two dioceses.

The Vatican is holding consultations on the move and meetings are to be held in every diocese to allow people to talk about it.

Currently, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh also fulfills the role of administrator in the Diocese of Dromore, while Bishop Denis Nulty of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlan also acts as administrator of the Diocese of Ossory.

This announcement could pave the way for the formalization of their role in the management of a second diocese as bishop.

In December 2019, the former Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, told the international Catholic weekly: The tablet, that he was in favor of reducing the number of dioceses in the Irish Church.

“I think there are now good reasons to rationalize the dioceses. The borders have been there since the 12th century and in some cases they work, and in other cases they don’t, ”he said.

Dr Martin pointed out that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his 2010 letter to Irish Catholics, said streamlining would continue. “It has been a long time coming.”

“There was opposition,” revealed Dr Martin, explaining that “changing diocesan boundaries and depriving a city of its cathedral is a very sensitive thing”.

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