A Catholic lobby group calling for an end to the celibacy requirement for priests has hit out after Irish bishops shelved a plan to raise the issue with Pope Francis.
It had been hoped the celibacy issue would be taken up with Pope Francis at a meeting to be held in Rome next week.
Last night the Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) expressed "deep disappointment" at the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference (ICBC), and warned that the growing shortage of priests needs to be addressed as a "matter of urgency".
ACI spokeman Anthony Neville said that ending the celibacy requirement would be "in keeping with the practice of the Eastern Rite Churches where clerics can be married - and would eliminate the current anomaly, whereby married Anglican clergy have been accepted into the Catholic Church as ordained priests".
"In addition to ordaining married men, there is a cohort of ordained priests who left active ministry to marry, who could be invited back into ministry right now," he said, adding that he felt these priests could bring their experience of marriage to pastoral work, while providing extra resources to meet the challenge of the shortage of priests in Ireland.
The ACI group has also pointed out that the question of celibacy is already being discussed at the highest levels at the Vatican.