Thirty one priests attended the meeting held on Tues 25 Feb in the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone, representing about three quarters of Ireland’s diocese. It was chaired by Gerry Alwill of the Leadership Team.
Brendan Hoban, in an introduction, stated that one of the purposes of the meeting was to attempt to improve communications with the various dioceses. He acknowledged that the ACP, which operates without office or secretarial facilities, has not always been able to keep the lines of communication as open as the Leadership would wish. So this meeting was mainly for the diocesan representatives to talk to the leadership.
It was a lively and fruitful meeting, with practically everyone speaking over a two hour period. As has become the norm at ACP meetings, there was a great sense of freedom and openness in the contributions that were made. The main topics discussed were as follows:
- The difficulties created by the declining number of priests. Many angles of this problem were raised, ranging from the pressure being put on priests in their old age to the further decline of local communities when they are deprived of a resident priest. It was stressed that we should not look on this issue in a clericalist way, since it is a matter that concerns the whole Church.
- The enormous dissatisfaction with the New Missal, and the question of whether there was anything that could be done about it at this stage.
The feedback to the Leadership was generally very positive. It was mentioned that some priests do not approve of us, but the feeling was that, while a great many priests do not want to be bothered by going to meetings or even joining, that generally the work of the ACP is appreciated and valued.
The Leadership were very happy with the meeting, and feel that we are now much clearer on the message we would like to bring to the bishops if and when they agree to our request for a meeting.
The plans of the ACI for a national conversation were presented to the gathering. The idea was very favourably received, but more clarity is needed in relation to the process. It was decided that one or two members of the Leadership should request a meeting with the ACI.