The number of priests in Ireland has dropped by 500 in just ten years with steady numbers of defections.

The number of actively working priests in Ireland is now believed to be as low as 1,900 as official figures for the past decade slide by a massive 514.

In 2004, records show there were 3,141 priests in Ireland and this number has steadily declined through the past ten years, reaching 2,627 priests in the latest available records in 2014. As a large proportion of these priests are retired, however, it is estimated that just 1,900 are actively working in the vocation.

Numbers fell every year but from 2007 to 2008 when there was a small increase of ten priests. The largest drop-off in numbers came in from 2013 to 2014, a twelve-month period which saw a 120 decrease in numbers.

The death of current priests and the lack of vocations is being cited as the reasons behind this massive decrease, although year to year figures were also released of those who have simply left the priesthood.

In the ten years from 2004 and 2014, 83 left the priesthood permanently, referred to as defectors. This figure accounts for 16 per cent of the decline in priests in the last decade. These numbers do not include priests who retire or those who are on a break from ministry.

Again between 2007 and 2008 numbers were low and just one priest defected but it was as high as 15 in the 12 months leading up to 2004.

Figures available until 2014 were published in the latest Annuarium Statisticum, the statistical yearbook of the Church.

H/T: The Irish Catholic