The new Bishop of Galway Michael Duignan said that it was inevitable that there would be a “smaller faithful community” in Ireland, but that he hoped it would be a more outward reaching one.
He said that many of the traditions and institutes of the church are now often a hindrance rather than a help, and hoped for a community of the faithful that will focus on building bridges.
The new Bishop of the Diocese of Galway & Kilmacduagh, and apostolic administrator of Kilfenora, was installed in a ceremony on Sunday.
Up to 1,500 people attended the ceremony in Galway Cathedral yesterday afternoon, which was also livestreamed.
Bishop Duignan is succeeding the outgoing Bishop Brendan Kelly in the role, while also retaining his post as the Bishop of Clonfert.
Bishop Duiganan said that he was conscious of the “historic milestone” of one bishop being appointed to head these two dioceses.
He said that there is sometimes a feeling that faith and religion “might soon be a thing of the past”, adding that “Many of our parishes are struggling on so many levels to support a vibrant community.”
“Despite the great work done by generations of priests, religious, and lay people, now at times it feels like we have been out all night, without a single catch.”
“We can no longer ignore the fact that much of what the church has built up in Ireland over the last two centuries is crumbling before our eyes.”
“The more and more I see, the more and more I am convinced that our infrastructure, our systems, our pastoral practices that were beneficial in the past, now hinder rather than help the life of faith.”
He said that this is also a “threshold moment” and that it is inevitable there will be “a sense of genuine mourning” in letting go of these old institutes.
However, he struck a hopeful note in saying that the message of Easter is one of new life and hope, and called on people to rediscover the “joy and excitement” of their faith.
“It is clear that in the future we will be a smaller faithful community”, Bishop Duignan said, but added that it would be a more “faith filled, vibrant, grounded” community at the same time.
He prayed for a community that “builds bridges not barriers” and reaches out to people who find themselves in need.
He hoped for a community that is “less afraid of those who see life differently from us” and finds its place in society, while society would also, hopefully, find a “fair place” for people of faith.