Sacraments will disappear amid vocations crisis

Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) says the vocations crisis has become so critical that sacraments like baptisms and marriages are likely to “disappear” from some parishes in the near future.

The ACP, which represents over 1,000 Catholic priests in Ireland, says reform is urgently needed to prevent parishes from closing across the country.

“We’re facing a catastrophic situation in the next 10 to 20 years because there are not enough male celibate vocations to keep our parishes alive,” ACP spokesman Father Tim Hazelwood says.

“We’re facing a situation where the sacraments could disappear in some parishes because our priests are all getting older and no one is coming through to replace them.

“In maybe 10, but definitely 20 years, priests in Ireland are going to be an endangered species unless things change. We’re facing a really bleak future unless new measures are brought in.”

The ACP has long called for radical church reform.

It has advocated relaxing strict celibacy rules, ordaining married men, inviting back clerics who left their parishes to get married, and ordaining women to the diaconate.

Hazelwood also says the current crisis is increasingly taking a toll on the health of older working priests.

Many are continuing to work beyond their retirement age because there is no one coming through the seminaries to replace them.

Speaking of his own parish, he says “The age profile of the priests gives food for thought … one over 80, two over 70, nine over 60, 10 over 50, and two over 40.”

“Fast forward 15 years and the very best you could hope for is 10 priests for all that area and, even if healthy, they will all be elderly men. That is the stark reality.”

The crisis is evident in every diocese in Ireland.

Earlier this year Bishop Dermot Farrell urged his diocese to see the “signs of the times,” warning that the number of priests under the age of 75 would halve over the next decade.

The warnings for the Catholic Church in Ireland come at a time when hopes have been raised for the future of the Church following the just-finished Amazon synod.

Last week, in a landmark vote by the Vatican, bishops recommended the Pope gives permission for married men in Brazil to become priests.




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