The Diocese of Cork and Ross is facing a priest shortage crisis and some Masses could be replaced by public prayers with no communion in the years ahead,.
Father Charlie Kiely, director of pastoral development in Cork and Ross revealed the extent of the problem, as it emerged that Mass will not be said at any church in Limerick today, the first time this has happened in any Irish Diocese in 188 years since Catholic Emancipation in 1829.
The Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has also warned that Mass may not take place every Sunday in some parishes due to a lack of priests.
In the Cork and Ross, Father Kiely said that while the issue in Limerick was not necessarily due to an immediate shortage of priests, he acknowledged that the lack of ordinations and age profile of priests meant a shortage was inevitable in Cork in the years ahead.
“We will have a problem in a number of year's time because the number of priests we have working in our parishes are in their 60s and 70s and the retirement age is 75,” he said.
“We had one ordination this year and last year and we had one the year before.
“It takes seven to eight years for a guy to be ordained from the time he enters seminary and there's no guarantee he'll go all the way through. We have four in training at the moment.
“If you are asking the question, where are we going with our vocation of priests, we will have a crisis in a number of years.
“We're working in clusters in parish areas so presently so that is a fear that we are going to have, that we may not have resident priests,” he added.