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abuse legacy Archbishop of Dublin warns current model of the church in Ireland is 'unsustainable'

This is due to its "ageing clergy", "very few vocations" and "a major decline in the number of people who actively practise and live their faith"

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Archbishop Dermot Farrell. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Archbishop Dermot Farrell. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Archbishop Dermot Farrell. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

The leader of the country's largest Catholic diocese has said the current model of the church in Ireland is "unsustainable".

This is due to its "ageing clergy", "very few vocations" and "a major decline in the number of people who actively practise and live their faith".

In an interview in the current issue of Síolta, a journal published by the national seminary in Maynooth, Archbishop Dermot Farrell admitted the visibility of faith in Ireland "has for all intents and purposes vanished".

The archbishop, who was appointed to Dublin last January, said he was dealing with the legacy of sexual abuse scandals which had damaged the church's credibility.

"Since finance is a function of numbers, financial issues will arise which will be accelerated by the global pandemic and its aftermath," he said.

The former president of St Patrick's College in Maynooth criticised public commentary in the media in Ireland for not being positive in its understanding of the church and its need for vocations.

Dr Farrell said that while there is an underlying crisis of faith, which is particularly acute among the younger generation, he was not "pessimistic about the future of the church in Dublin".

"When young people volunteer to look after the sick, or the elderly, or the poor, when accompanied, it may facilitate a dynamic where the Lord starts to speak and move the heart of the young person."

Dr Farrell, who oversees a diocese of 200 parishes and one million Catholics, said "we need to start here rather than telling people to go to mass".

He stressed that "a church in crisis demands creativity" and said there was an opportunity to reimagine the institutional church by encouraging "a participatory institutional model of church with a leadership of service".

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In an indication of his plan for renewal in Dublin, he said there was a need for an effective programme of catechetics to replace the current teaching of faith to young people.

"With the gradual decline of family socialisation in religion, the role of the qualified catechist will be essential. In my opinion, the handing on of the faith to the young is one of the most serious challenges facing our church today," he said.

Last week, at a mass in Tallaght to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the death of St Dominic, Dr Farrell said, "Unlike the past, when the threat to the faith in Ireland came from outside, today it comes from within, where almost all generations are constructing their own identities.

"We see this absolutely everywhere in our culture. Freedom of choice reigns supreme."

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