Rome Newsroom, Nov 17, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).
Two Catholic dioceses in Ireland will soon be under the leadership of one bishop, a representative of Pope Francis has told local Irish bishops.
In a joint statement, Bishop Brendan Kelly of Galway, Kilmacduagh, and Kilfenora and Bishop Michael Duignan of Clonfert said that their two dioceses in the west of Ireland would be joined under the leadership of a single bishop while remaining autonomous dioceses.
“We have been informed by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, that in the near future the Holy Father Pope Francis intends to appoint a single bishop to the Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh, and Kilfenora and the Diocese of Clonfert,” said the joint statement published on Nov. 16.
The bishops explained that this change would not be an amalgamation and would not suppress either diocese.
“Both dioceses will continue to maintain their own integrity and autonomy as is but will work closer together, where possible, through the person and ministry of a single bishop (in persona episcopi),” it said.
This means that the existing diocesan structures, institutions, lands, finances, and juridical competencies would be left unaltered.
The announcement comes after Bishop Kelly submitted the customary letter of resignation at the age of 75 to Pope Francis earlier this year.
At only 51 years of age, Bishop Duignan could be a candidate to be the leader of the two dioceses.
Duignan has served as the bishop of Clonfert for the past two years. His episcopal consecration took place on Oct. 13, 2019, a few months after his appointment by Pope Francis.
The Diocese of Clonfert, located in parts of County Galway and County Clare, traces its history back to the sixth century, when St. Brendan (also known as Brendan of Clonfert) established the Clonfert abbey. The diocese was formally established in the year 1111.
Today, the diocese has a population of 36,000 Catholics across 24 parishes, making it one of Ireland’s smallest dioceses, according to the Irish Times.
The Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh, and Kilfenora, on the other hand, is much larger in population, with more than 105,000 Catholics.
Galway and Kilmacduagh dioceses were combined in 1883 after the bishop of Galway was made the apostolic administrator of Kilfenora.
There are a total of 26 Catholic dioceses in Ireland which each currently have their own bishop.
“We pray God’s blessings on our respective dioceses at this important time and we look forward to a closer working together towards a new springtime of faith within each of our diocesan and parish communities,” Kelly and Duignan said in their joint statement.
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