Foreign priests like Fr Kazimierz Nawalaniec will ensure Irish Catholics will be able to attend a full Mass in 15 or 20 years time, according to the Bishop of Cork and Ross.
Bishop John Buckley’s comments come after it emerged proposals outlining how lay people could hold Communion services are being circulated amongst bishops ahead of their October gathering.
The plans are a direct response to the ageing of priests and the vocations crisis.
However, Bishop Buckley yesterday played down the potential role of the laity in saving the Irish Catholic Church.
To his mind, foreign priests will be its salvation.
“There was a trend in the past that other countries came to Ireland looking for priests for the Far East, South America and Africa. We believe this trend will continue and we hope that people in countries where Ireland and Cork and Ross have traditionally sent priests will respond to our needs in the future.
“A shortage of priests will be of concern in the years ahead but at the moment we have developed pastoral areas and parish councils which mean that parishes are working together to ensure that there is a priest for Mass when the local priest is on holidays, etc.”
As part of a pastoral area agreement, if a priest from one parish is on holidays, he can rely on one from the nearby parish to fulfil his duties. Pastoral councils are made up of clergy and 5-10 parishioners.
The diocese of Cork and Ross has three Polish priests, at St Augustine’s in the city centre, Ballyphehane, and Kinsale. An Indian priest has long been a chaplain to Cork’s Syrio-Malabar Indian community.
Bishop Buckley said that Communion services were “occasionally” taking place “on a weekday” in Cork and Ross.
Such services are not a full Mass and are only held on weekdays.
Meanwhile, Fr Kazimierz Nawalaniec — or Fr Kaz as he is known — says he “feels great” ministering in the Church of the Assumption in Ballyphehane. He comes from the diocese of Tarnow in southern Poland where there are 1,500 priests and where 28 were ordained this year.
“The people in Ballyphehane are very good to me and I am very busy with my work. I would say they have embraced me and for any other priests looking to come to Ireland I would say that you will be very busy, having more than enough to occupy your time.”
He believes that if the Catholic hierarchy is serious about encouraging more foreign priests to move here, they should establish “some kind of formation or training course” to help priests understand Irish culture.
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