A ban on Sunday funerals has come into force in the diocese of Kerry.
The changes, scheduled for the beginning of September, were announced in May by Bishop of Kerry, Dr Ray Browne.
The 53-parish diocese is undergoing major changes, because of a decline in the number of priests. Now, just one priest under the age of 40 is serving in the diocese, which takes in parts of west and north Cork and stretches to the Limerick border. Six parishes have no resident priest.
In July, Bishop Browne said the day was not far off when churches would not have a weekend Mass.
To fill in for the empty parishes, the diocese has been divided into pastoral areas, corresponding to old deaneries. Few parishes now have a full-time priest and a rota system is being rolled out, the Bishop has also said.
However, Bishop Browne also looked to the growing role of the laity in Kerry, in administering to each other’s spiritual needs.
Kerry is only the second diocese — outside of the archdiocese of Dublin — to introduce a ban on Sunday funerals.
The ban on Sunday funerals is because of the extra liturgical demands on already over-burdened priests in Kerry.
It applies from Saturday mid-afternoons, although removals to the church can take place on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Bishop Browne said many people would have reservations about the decision. However, it had been taken after extensive consultation with parish councils and with clergy. The retirement age for priests in Kerry is 75.
Six parishes have no resident priest: Valentia Island, in the south-west of Kerry; Allihies, in west Cork, and Tarbert, along with Ballyheigue, Duagh, in the north of the county, and Knocknagoshel, on the Limerick border.
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