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The Vatican Announces Reduction of Catholic Dioceses in Ireland

Vatican: In a significant move anticipated for some time, the Pope has taken steps to consolidate dioceses in Ireland, a tradition dating back over a millennium, resulting in the retention of only three bishops in the western ecclesiastical provinces.

Bishop John Fleming (76) of Killala had tendered his resignation over a year ago, awaiting approval from Rome. The decision to reduce diocesan numbers coincided with the Pope’s acceptance of his resignation. Archbishop Francis Duffy of Tuam (Galway) has been appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Killala.

Bishop Paul Dempsey (53) of Achonry (Roscommon) has been replaced by Pope Francis as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Dublin. Additionally, Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin (Sligo) has been named Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Achonry (Roscommon), while continuing his responsibilities in Sligo.

This restructuring also sees the appointment of two new auxiliary bishops in Dublin. Paul Dempsey, formerly the bishop of Achonry (Roscommon), along with Donal Roche (65), appointed last month, will serve as auxiliary bishops in Dublin.

Killala, with 30,000 Catholics, holds the distinction of being the least populous diocese in Ireland. Archbishop Duffy expressed confidence that these changes would fortify the Archdiocese of Tuam (Galway) and the Dioceses of Killala, Elphin, and Achonry, fostering greater unity and community strength. He underscored the decision as a stride towards inclusivity, ensuring the active participation of all members of the dioceses.

The Catholic Church in Ireland, comprising 26 dioceses with boundaries rooted in the 12th century, intends to gradually phase out the dioceses of Achonry (Roscommon) and Ballina (County Mayo), potentially merging them with other dioceses under the Archdiocese of Tuam (Galway). A similar merger may occur with the Diocese of Clonfert, encompassing East Galway.

While the number of Irish Catholics is dwindling, there is an uptick in the church’s demographics with the influx of Catholic immigrants, including those from the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala. The Syro-Malabar Church, boasting a significant presence across forty centers, may soon be granted a diocese in Ireland, given its burgeoning congregation, making Ireland home to the largest Syro-Malabar Catholic population in Europe.

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