Women need to play a much more important and inclusive role in the Church, the first synod in Ireland in 50 years has been told.
Around 400 delegates spent three days at the Limerick Diocesan Synod where they voted on 100 proposals to help map out the future of the Church and how it serves the community in a time of falling vocations.
A motion to establish a working group to explore and scope out how and where women can play a leadership role in the governance of the Church received the highest number of priority votes at the synod.
A proposal to develop and support lay-led liturgies and the celebration of sacraments was supported by over 90% of delegates.
Speaking at the synod, Eugene Duffy, a lecturer in theology and religious studies at Mary Immaculate College, recommended that occasional lay-led liturgies without priests should be introduced on weekdays as a way of preparing for the reality of priests not being available to every parish in the years ahead.
“If we can get used to having lay-led liturgy on week days first then people will begin to appreciate it, understand it, grow in their own acceptance of it and see the value of it,” said Fr Duffy.
Fr Duffy also said that the Catholic Church can learn from the Church of Ireland in this regard.
“The Church of Ireland has readers who look after the liturgy on a Sunday if an ordained minister cannot be present. We are going to have to get used to this situation and have no option to prepare for it. Otherwise there is going to be a trauma some Sunday,” he said.
The role of women in the Church was also discussed as part of the universal themes which could not be voted on but were discussed on the final day of the Limerick Diocesan Synod.
Vincent Hanley a delegate from Knockaderry/Clouncagh, Co Limerick, said the issues of women priests was a popular theme in the three-year listening process which took place before the first synod in Limerick in 80 years.
The three-day synod was the culmination of a listening process which engaged the views of 5,000 people to identify the biggest issues facing the Catholic Church.
“Up to now we have been very pragmatic in our discussions but there are elephants in the room and especially the situation around women priests,” said Mr Hanley.
Marian Wallace, a delegate from Ardpatrick, Co Limerick, said women, in particular mothers, were tired of “religious apartheid”.
“Mothers are the backbone of the Church, we teach our children we bring them to church but we are tired of inequality we are tired of religious apartheid,” she said.
Pat Seever of St Munchin’s parish in Limerick said it is an injustice women cannot become priests.
Only three of the 100 proposals were rejected at the synod, one of which was a motion to move the age of confirmation to 16.
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