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"The numbers of working Catholic priests in Ireland will halve in the next 10 years, a bishop has warned.
Bishop Francis Duffy has issued a letter on the severity of the vocations crisis to all 41 churches in his diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. He has told how a priest in each parish will be a thing of the past.
Bishop Duffy says a big factor in the decline is how a changing faith in Ireland is down to people becoming more private about their religion.
He told the Sunday Independent that the lack of those choosing to enter the priesthood did not mean that people were turning their backs on their religion.
"Faith is changing," he said as he prepared for Easter in this diocese.
"There is still a lot of faith in people, and they tend to use the word 'spiritual'. It is more private than public, and it is not always reflected in practice. It is a very personal issue, and I think that is important, and I say that when I am preaching. The more private dimension of faith is a strong thing.
"But I think the community is important, because it is where we live and work and interact and support each other. Community worship is vital."
The bishop's pastoral letter detailed how the numbers of priests will drop from 52 to 25 by the year 2030.
Bishop Duffy said there are currently no seminarians getting ready to be ordained in the diocese, which covers most of Longford, much of Leitrim and parts of Westmeath, Offaly and Cavan.
He said it means that by the time children born now are making their confirmation "the diocese will be a very different place".
He wrote: "Many of you will fondly remember when there were two or three priests working in your parish, where now there is only one.
"Three of our parishes do not have a resident priest. The trend of a declining number of clergy is set to continue. By 2030, over the next 13 years, 28 of our diocesan priests will reach the retirement age of 75. At the moment, we have 52 very dedicated diocesan priests in our parishes, but sadly no seminarians preparing for ordination."
Bishop Duffy said the decline is such that we needed to prepare for a future without parish priests.
Instead, the church will rely heavily on parishioners to help, he said in the letter entitled Sustaining Our Faith Community.
"From both a pastoral and a duty of care perspective, it is important that responsibilities our clergy now carry are shared with parishioners even more so than at present. This is not about closing churches but about reimagining how we worship and pass on our Christian faith," he said.
Vatican statistics show that the numbers of priests in Ireland dropped from 5,362 in 2002 to 4,688 in 2012.
With less and less seminarians, the maths show a major crisis on the cards.
This year, there were just three seminarians in Ardagh and Clonmacnois, and all three left, which he described as "unfortunate and disappointing".
There are many reasons for the decline, he said.
"There is a hesitancy to answer a calling. Some feel it is too demanding, some feel the celibacy is too big a demand and it will be a lonely life. Others aren't ready to take the risk.
"The horrendous and heinous crime of the abuse of children by clergy and how it was so badly managed, was also a big issue and had a huge impact on the view of the clergy and the church. A general mistrust of all institutions has left a lot of people questioning them." He believes parishioners can be instrumental in encouraging those who have a calling to take the jump.
"Some of my parishes took the initiative of parishioners talking at Mass about vocations and this helps. It is a different voice, a different angle.''
He said that both the issue of celibacy and of women priests are talked about a lot. But he does not believe Pope Francis has any plans to change either of those rules.
The Association of Catholic Priests has previously requested of the bishops to welcome women into the priesthood and to scrap the celibacy ban. Fr Brendan Hoban, of the ACP, said: "Doing nothing is not just irresponsible but a counsel of despair. We know who to blame if they do not bite the bullet on this one."
Bishop Duffy said parishioners already play a key role in church activities, and he is enormously grateful for their assistance, which he believes will save the faith.
He said: "We have an extensive list of men and women involved in all sorts of ways, directly in the parish, and that is a good thing. There is a strong sense of identity and belonging in parishes in rural Ireland. That is a strength that will help us re-imagine the future."
In the last census, some 3.7 million people identified as Catholic (78pc), 132,220 fewer than in 2011 when the percentage stood at 84pc.
One in 10 Irish people say they have no religion (468,421 people), a 73.6pc increase since 2011.
This makes 'no religion' the second largest group in this category behind Roman Catholics.
In his Good Friday prayer, Pope Francis deplored the suffering of migrants. "Shame for all the images of devastation, destruction and shipwrecks which have become ordinary in our lives," he said in an apparent reference to Mediterranean migrant disasters."