The Papal Nuncio in Ireland is foreshadowing a cut in the number of dioceses in the country.

Driving the news

“All I can say is that the process of amalgamation has already started”, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo told The Irish Catholic.

“It will be slow and steady – to avoid hurts, shocks, and surprises”, the Pope’s representative in Ireland promised of the diocesan merger process.

“Everyone implicated in the matter will be involved.

“The people will effect the amalgamation, work out the details of the cohesion, and inform the Holy See”.

Go deeper

“I want to be discreet about it, in order not to go ahead. Because if I say it has begun, and the people will say, ‘but we don’t know about it’. Yes, it has begun”, Okolo further explained.

“The amalgamation begins from the grassroots. The communities, the meetings.

“In all the dioceses today, there are consultations going on…some don’t want to hear it”, said the Nigerian-born prelate, who has been in Ireland since 2017.

Why it matters

With his comments that “some don’t want to hear” about the move underway to streamline Ireland’s present 26 dioceses to as few as 12, Okolo was referring to the sentiment, said to be strong among the bishops and faithful, to maintain the status quo.

But the fact is that a restructuration of the Irish dioceses has been on the table at least since the 2010-2012 Vatican investigation into the Irish Church, which “placed in question the present configuration of Dioceses in Ireland and their ability to respond adequately to the challenges of the New Evangelization”.

The members of that Apostolic Visitation also expressed a desire “to adapt[] diocesan structures to make them better suited to the present-day mission of the Church in Ireland”.

For the record

According to the 2016 census, 78.3% of the population identified as Catholic in Ireland, for a total of about 3.7 million faithful.

Those faithful have the benefit, in their 26 dioceses, of the pastoral care of four archbishops, 19 bishops, and one auxiliary bishop, with three sees currently vacant.

In comparison the archdiocese of Los Angeles, in the United States, has one archbishop and five auxiliary bishops for a total Catholic population of some 4.4 million faithful.

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