Neil Michael reports in the Irish Examiner:
More than 21% of Ireland’s entire population of parish priests and brothers — both serving and retired — have died in just three years.
The Association of Catholic Priests says that parishes are going to have to be amalgamated, churches closed, and fewer Masses held.
Fr John Collins, one of the ACP’s directors, said: “The figures are shocking. It is very sad to see so many have died in such a short space of time.
“We are all aware of an ageing priest population, but it is only when you look at the figures that you realise what a high number it is.
He added that the number of those dying every year is “only going to keep rising”.
The number of serving Diocesan priests was officially recorded by the Catholic Church as being around 2,067 in 2014.
However, this was when the number of priests aged 75-84 was increasing steadily compared to previous years, as was the number of priests aged 65-74.
By the end of 2018, there were an estimated 1,800 working priests and around 720 retired priests, some of which were still helping out for holiday and sickness cover.
The list of most — but not all — clerical deaths in Ireland is contained each year in the, the official directory of the Irish Catholic Church published by Veritas Publications on behalf of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
According to those statistics, 174 nuns and 166 priests and brothers died in 2019.
A further 191 nuns died in 2020, and 223 priests and brothers also died.
Up to September 2021, another 131 nuns had died, as had 131 priests and brothers.
However, the figures from the directories are likely to be conservative, because not every religious order or diocese reports the death of its clergy to Veritas.
In addition, according to Rip.ie, at least another 76 nuns, at least another 36 priests, and five religious brothers died between October and January 4 this year.
Thereported recently that the number of priests is set to decline dramatically over the coming months as pressures on parishes from the pandemic ease.
Link to article:
Link to previous article in the Irish Examiner (13 Dec 2021) on declining numbers of priests in Ireland:
Pressure on parishes with dozens of ageing priests due to retire