Priests in Ireland's largest Catholic diocese are set to be responsible for multiple parishes due to the declining number of priests.
Fr. Aquinas Duffy, the parish priest of Cabinteely in South Dublin, has revealed that 34 priests have died in the Dublin archdiocese since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, while just one has been ordained in the same period.
Fr. Duffy told Newstalk this week that it is "critical" that Dublin parishes group together in response to the shortage of priests, although he conceded that this would only be a temporary measure.
"I think clearly the proposal of appointing one priest to a number of parishes is only a temporary solution," Fr. Duffy said.
He said the Church would eventually have to "face reality" and consider allowing women to join the priesthood and priests to marry in order to address the falling number of clergy.
Fr. Duffy added that it will be impossible for Dublin priests to carry out the required number of funerals each year.
"I think one of the areas for instance that will need to be addressed is the whole area of funerals.
"In some parishes, they have up to 300 funerals a year, so clearly it won't be possible for one priest to do all of those funerals in the way that we currently do them."
He said he could envisage a scenario where laypeople could be trained to preside over funeral ceremonies and burial or cremation services.
The age profile of many Dublin priests is also a cause for concern, Fr. Duffy said, with the average age of priests based in the capital now standing above 70.
He said it would be "very difficult" for someone of that age to take on more responsibility and preside over multiple parishes at once.
In the meantime, the Dublin archdiocese has launched the "Building Hope" strategy, encouraging parishes to merge together in response to the shortage, while the parishes of Foxrock, Booterstown, and Donnybrook have already begun to implement the changes.