A famous Irish broadcaster has urged young people to consider joining the priesthood, warning that Ireland is at risk of becoming "priestless".
RTÉ's Sean O'Rourke delivered an address at Knock Basilica on Wednesday, stating that it was a shame that Ireland faces a future where young people will not "be hearing or heeding the call to become priests".
O'Rourke noted that the 1,600th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in Ireland is less than a decade away, adding that there might not be "that many priests around to help with the celebrations".
"It’s not surprising that the bishops have called us to pray for vocations, especially diocesan vocations. Otherwise, we won’t be far away from trying to survive as a priestless church," O'Rourke said.
O'Rourke urged young people to "go the extra mile" and consider joining the priesthood, according to the Irish Independent.
He added that he was "certain" that people could think of a priest who has made a "positive difference" in people's lives or communities.
"We all know priests and religious who have done huge amounts of good and offered their lives for others. They need and deserve our support, our gratitude, and our prayers, and we need more of them."
Last year, a report found that fewer than 2.5% of priests in Ireland are under the age of 40 and additionally stated that Ireland may lose a quarter of its priests over the next 15 years.
According to the Catholic News Agency, there are currently 2,116 priests serving a total of 2,650 churches in Ireland, while more than a third of the priests in the country are over the age of 60.
Just ten seminarians began their studies at St. Patrick's Pontifical University in Maynooth last year, which is actually an increase on the nine seminarians that began training for the priesthood in 2021.
The Catholic Church launched an initiative earlier in the year in an attempt to encourage young men to join the priesthood.
The church's new year-long vocational initiative, which was launched on Vocations/Good Shepherd Sunday on April 30, attempts to address the rapid decline in numbers. The theme of the year-long initiative is "Take a Risk for Christ".
Vocations Ireland, an organization that is part of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland, will hold events throughout the year aimed at highlighting the different vocations within the Catholic Church.