The Bishop of Clonfert, Michael Duignan, has warned in a pastoral letter that the decline of the Catholic church in Ireland may have been fast-forwarded ten years by the pandemic – to reveal itself soon as a ‘possible disaster’.
The bishop declares that, with a return to chapel worship with the lifting of restrictions:
“It is too early to say exactly what changes will occur but I think we can say, with some sort of certainty, that things will be different. Some fear a
possible disaster. Fewer people practising, financial difficulties, children and families further distanced from the Sacraments and congregations permanently migrating to the comfort of online attendance. There may even be a growing realisation that, although much of what we normally do as Church was absent these last months, for many people, it was not really missed.”
Insisting that this prospect should galvanise rather than petrify his people, Bishop Duignan calls for ‘pastoral conversion’.
‘Pope Francis has often spoken of the idea of “pastoral conversion”. He speaks of his dream for a Church that moves from an outlook of mere self-preservation to one more akin to that of those first Christians (The Joy of the Gospel, 27). An outlook where, as a people of faith, our genuine friendship with Jesus is evident, our joyful enthusiasm to share our faith contagious and our authentic practical living out of the faith in our lives transformative far beyond the Christian community. Pope Francis holds that our pastoral ministry should seek to abandon the complacent attitude that says: “We have always done it this way” and he invites “everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation in their respective communities.” (The Joy of the Gospel, 33).
‘The Pope is not talking about reworking the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, but rather about a radical reform and refocusing of the way the Good News is presented, along with the structures needed to support vibrant Christian communities.’
To read the complete pastoral, click here.