One church source yesterday warned that “amalgamation had the potential to be very emotive as priests and lay people identified with the existing diocese.”
They pointed to historic amalgamations which were “fraught affairs”.
“It would also involve a lot of legal wrangling, such as for one, whether the former dioceses would still be considered a registered charity,” he said.
According to Cardinal Seán Brady, a church committee had already been examining the possible reconfiguration of the dioceses before the Pope announced two years ago that the visitation would take place.
“Initial proposals” have been made by the committee, the cardinal confirmed. Ireland has four archdioceses and 22 dioceses.
Austria, which has a similar Catholic population, has just 12 dioceses.
The report questioned the dioceses’ ability “to respond adequately to the challenges of the New Evangelisation”. They said the structures should be “adapted” to “make them better suited to the present day mission” of the Irish Church.
It has been widely speculated that the Diocese of Cork and Ross may eventually be amalgamated with the Diocese of Cloyne.
It is nearly three years since Bishop John Magee first stepped aside from the day-to-day workings of the Diocese of Cloyne.
Seven dioceses are currently without bishops — Cloyne, Limerick, Kildare and Leighlin, Derry, Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Elphin, and Kerry.
The redesign of the dioceses will be a much more “long-term” project. Speculation is rife that instead of having four archdioceses, there could be two — Armagh, made up of Armagh, Clogher, and Kilmore, and the second Dublin.
There would be a new diocese of Tuam, made up of Tuam, Elphin, Achonry, and Killala and a diocese of Meath and Ardagh made up of Meath and Ardagh and Clonmacnoise.
It has been suggested that Kildare and Leighlin and Ferns could be amalgamated to form Kildare and Ferns.
A new diocese of Cashel would compose of Waterford and Lismore, Cashel and Emly, and Ossory.
Limerick and Kerry would also join together.
Galway, it was claimed, could also join forces with Killaloe and Clonfert.