Dr Bill Murphy will attend a specialist in the coming days to determine the full extent of a lower back problem that has significantly hindered his mobility as it is aggravated by standing and walking.
Parishioners have been told the bishop will not be able to preside at every ceremony. In his absence, children will be confirmed by 12 vicars forane, whose role it is to spearhead countywide pastoral areas.
The physically demanding Confirmation schedule, which will involve 37 separate ceremonies, will commence on Monday next in the parish of Glenflesk and will continue for several weeks before the closing ceremony in Castletownbere on May 10.
On reaching his 75th birthday last June, Bishop Murphy wrote to Pope Benedict XVI seeking permission to retire, but was asked to remain on until a successor was appointed.
He had hoped the Pope would make a quick decision, but he acknowledged that the process could take up to 12 months to complete.
It is understood the Vatican has already made good progress in determining the most suitable candidate to succeed Bishop Murphy, and the recent appointment of a new Papal Nuncio to Ireland will speed up the process considerably.
Clerical sources within the Kerry diocese have indicated that Fr Seamus O’Connell, a native of the county and currently Professor of Sacred Scripture in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, has emerged as the front-runner to succeed Dr Murphy.
Other candidates include Canon William Crean, Monsignor Dan O’Riordan, Fr Donal O’Neill, and Fr George Hayes.