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Major All Ireland church celebration in Knock ahead of 50th International Eucharistic congress in Ireland 2012. Photo by: John McElroy

‘Priests will have disappeared from Ireland in a few decades’

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Major All Ireland church celebration in Knock ahead of 50th International Eucharistic congress in Ireland 2012. Photo by: John McElroy

The Eucharistic Congress in Ireland this week will hear of a massive shortage of priests across the country.

Fr Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholic Priests told the Irish Times  that  “the difficult truth is that priests will have effectively disappeared in Ireland in two to three decades”.

Back in 2009 he stated of his own diocese Killala in Mayo "in 20 years’ time there will be around eight priests instead of the present 34, with probably two or three under 60 years of age.”

There are currently 30 priests in Killala.

By 2020, the Irish Times reports that the number of priests in Dublin will drop by about 36 per cent, from 456 to about 294.

There are currently 1,965 diocesan priests in Ireland, down from 3,078 in 2007.

The number of vocations has also plummeted from 409 a year in 1964 to just six in 2011.

There were ten seminaries for Irish applicants during the last Eucharistic Congress in 1932, that number is now three with one of the three in Rome, the Pontifical Irish College. Maynooth and St.Malachy’s in Belfast are the other two seminaries.

The current projection is that by 2030 there will be under 1,000 priests in Ireland but there will also be many more deacons, specially trained Catholic laymen who will take over many of their functions.

Some experts say the crisis is overblown. Leading Catholic laywoman Baroness Nuala O’Loan has said that “even with 1,500 priests in Ireland , we would still have one priest for every 3,000 or more people.” She said that in Timor the ratio was 1 to 30,000.

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