Catholic priests in Ireland will have almost disappeared within the next two decades, a leading cleric has claimed.

Fr Brendan Hoban, a founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) states in his new book that the Church is facing a massive vocation crisis.

“Ireland’s priests will have almost disappeared in 20 years,” he said

In his book ‘Who Will Break Bread for Us?’ Fr Hoban states that in his native Killala diocese in Co. Mayo, “For 22 parishes, there are now seven priests under 55. Spool on for two decades and there will be seven (or thereabouts) under 75.”

When he entered the priesthood in 1966, “Of the 84 who went to Maynooth, 20 were from the western dioceses; of the 12 in first year in Maynooth none is from the west.”

His new book is dedicated to six priests who have been silenced or threatened with silence by the Vatican, Fr Brian D’Arcy, Fr Seán Fagan, Fr Tony Flannery, Fr Gerard Moloney, Fr Iggy O’Donovan and Fr Owen O’Sullivan, the Irish Times reports.

The Irish priest says that in seven years Tuam archdiocese will have “50 priests for 55 parishes and 10 years on from that, in 2030, there will be just 30 Tuam priests, most of them elderly.”

In 1990, he stated, “There were 525 students studying for the diocesan priesthood in Ireland; in 2013 there are 70.”

He continues: “We don’t need to have 20-20 vision to see this particular train coming down the track. All we need to do is to be able to count . . . Ireland’s priests will have virtually disappeared in 20 years.”