Under the leadership of Irish Cardinal Sean Brady, the four Irish Archbishops are remaining resistant to Vatican plans of reducing the number of archdioceses in Ireland, and consequently, the number of bishops in Ireland.
The Irish Catholic reports that the Vatican’s investigation into the Church in Ireland, known as the Apostolic Visitation, triggered the idea to perhaps reduce the 26 Irish dioceses. In February 2010, the month prior to the Visitation, Pope Benedict XVI had met with Irish bishops and Vatican officials have been “floating the reform” ever since.
During that meeting, The Irish Catholic was told that many of the clergy were resisting the changes, but have realized in time that change is inevitable. They are, however, attempting to “minimize the cuts.”
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A September meeting in Maynooth devised plans that would in time remove the smaller dioceses. To do this, the Vatican would set a lower limit of 100,000 Catholics per diocese.
However, this number greatly contradicts what The Irish Catholic reports to be a “realistic” number of worshippers per diocese - 300,000.
A slash down to 100,000 would directly affect Cashel and Emly, Achonry, Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Clogher, Clonfert, Dromore, Elphin, Killala, Kilmore, Ossory and Raphoe.
Factors that could play a role in whether or not the cuts will happen is an aging clergy in Ireland, a decreasing rate of practice for Catholics and an infrastructure that is ever more costly to maintain.
The visitation team to Ireland from the Vatican calls for the decrease in dioceses by stating that there is simply too much representation for such a small population. Thus, too many bishops are present for Vatican meetings, making uniform decisions hard to come by.