One bishop for two Ireland dioceses

Irish dioceses combined

Pope Francis has announced two Irish dioceses will be combined in a union under one bishop, a move aimed at streamlining the church’s hierarchy without depriving any town of its cathedral.

One bishop will be appointed by Pope Francis to the Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora and the Diocese of Clonfert.

The change was relayed to the current bishops by the Pope’s representative in Ireland, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo.

Bishop Michael Duignan of Clonfert and Bishop Brendan Kelly of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora sent a joint letter to parishioners about the decision.

The letter said the union was “not an amalgamation” and it would not suppress either diocese.

“Both dioceses will continue to maintain their own integrity and autonomy as is but will work closely together, where possible, through the person and ministry of a single bishop.”

The letter went on to say that the Holy See will continue its consultations on the matter. In addition, meetings will be organised “at various levels in each diocese to inform the people of God and talk to them about it”.

Bishop Kelly is 75 and has therefore reached the age of retirement. Bishop Duignan will likely take up the role of Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora when Bishop Kelly retires.

The bringing of two or more dioceses together is known as ‘in persona episcopi’.

The Latin term means “in the person of the bishop”. It is used by the Catholic Church to designate the union of two or more dioceses under one bishop.

One bishop exercises the pastoral governance of both dioceses equally. Each diocese maintains its identity and handles its own “cultural heritage” as it deems fit.

They keep their own personnel or can share with other dioceses; priests will not normally be asked to minister beyond their own diocese unless by a special request or mandate.

Each diocese handles financial administration independently and makes its own pastoral decisions as usual.

In December 2019, the former Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, told the international Catholic weekly, The Tablet, that he favoured a reduction in the number of dioceses in the Irish Church.

“I think there are good reasons now to rationalise the dioceses. The borders have been there from the twelfth century. In some cases, they work, and in other cases, they don’t work,” he said.

Dr Martin pointed out Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2010 Letter to Irish Catholics, had said a rationalisation would proceed. “It has been a long time coming.”

“There has been opposition,” Dr Martin revealed. He explained that “changing diocesan boundaries and depriving a town of its cathedral is a very sensitive thing”.


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News category: Palmerston, World.

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