Bishop Leo O’Reilly has said he is “liaising” with other bishops with a view to setting up a commission to discuss the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood as well as appointing female deacons.
Bishop O’Reilly is making the proposal as a result of a 10-month listening process in his Kilmore diocese which led to a diocesan assembly and a new diocesan pastoral plan to tackle challenges facing the Church, including a declining number of priests.
Bishop O’Reilly told The Irish Catholic he plans to ask for the idea of a new commission to be put on the agenda for discussion at the next meeting of the hierarchy at Maynooth and “take it from there”.
“I think the other bishops would be open to the idea of a discussion and we are reaching a situation where we have to look at all the options possible,” he said. Dr O’Reilly told The Irish Catholic that his proposal was in response to Pope Francis.“Pope Francis has encouraged individual bishops and bishops’ conferences to be creative in looking at ways to do ministry in the future, so I think we have to consider all options,” he said.
The proposed commission would be similar to one in Brazil under the leadership of Cardinal Claudio Hummes and Bishop Erwin Kräutler to study the possibility of ordaining married men in response to the shortage of priests.
The new Kilmore pastoral plan identifies four areas of pastoral action: youth ministry; liturgy, sacraments and prayer; diocesan structures; and support for priests.
The diocese is putting a number of proposals into action this year starting with the establishment of a Youth Core Group by the end of the summer and the employment of youth ministers on a regional basis by the beginning of next year.