The new Bishop of Galway said “much of what the Church has built in Ireland over the past two centuries is crumbling before our eyes.”
Addressing 1,400 people gathered in Our Lady of the Assumption in Heaven and St Nicholas Cathedral in Galway for his installation ceremony yesterday, Bishop Michael Duignan said that many parishes in the Irish Church “are debate” despite “the excellent work done by generations of priests, religious and laity”.
He admitted there would be “a real sense of mourning” in abandoning pastoral infrastructure, systems and practices that were beneficial in the past but can now “hinder rather than help the life of faith.”
“It is clear that in the future we will be a smaller community of faith” because many no longer believe, he said. Addressing the Irish Independent after the ceremony, Dr. Duignan said he had no intention of being pessimistic.
“I think there are a lot of structures that we have to move away from to develop new structures. It’s a rebirth, it’s a regrowth, it’s a reality check.
A decrease in the number of Masses offered by parishes is a change he highlighted and said would allow for more holistic and spirit-filled liturgies.
“People know change is coming, they know the way we do things now won’t last forever and there may be a better way of doing things,” he said.
In his homily, Dr Duignan described the Irish Church as standing at a “decisive moment” and making a transition into the future.
He prayed that the church would build bridges not barriers and reach out with compassion to help those in need.
He also prayed that she would be “less afraid of those who see life differently from us” and was aware of her own human weakness.
Elsewhere he expressed the hope that the Church would be a community of faith that would find its place in Irish society and that Irish society would find “a fair place for believers”, and that people, priests and the bishop would walk side by side “in a truly synodal manner”.
Galway is Ireland’s youngest diocese and the 51-year-old is the first Bishop of Galway to be born after the cathedral was consecrated in 1965. He succeeds Bishop Brendan Kelly.
Meanwhile, it was announced yesterday that the term of Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Jude Okolo in Ireland is coming to an end after six years.