Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said there is a new “vibrancy” in the parishes of his Archdiocese of Dublin.
Interviewed on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Seán O’Rourke in the
wake of the Irish bishops’ ad limina visit to Pope Francis in Rome,
Archbishop Martin was pressed on the question of lower Mass attendances
since the last ad limina 10 years ago and asked if he accepted this as a
sign of decline in the Irish Church.
“If you define decline in numbers, yes,” Dr Martin responded, “but if
you define decline in terms of quality of Church life, the majority of
parishes in Dublin have never been as vibrant as they are today. And
that’s a big change.”
Recalling the period immediately before the abuse scandals which
rocked the Irish Church, the archbishop said, “I think our numbers
fooled us and we thought our strength was in numbers. We thought because
there were so many people, we could occupy all sorts of areas in
Questioned further on the phenomenon of churches “half full for Mass”
by O’Rourke, Dr Martin suggested this was merely a symptom of an issue
to be addressed.
“We have too many Masses,” he said. “We should be concentrating on
having a principal Sunday Mass in which all the elements of a believing
community come together and share and worship.”
Turning attention to the proposed visit of Pope Francis to Ireland in
2018, O’Rourke asked if there was a risk that unfavourable comparisons
would be made to the numbers that turned out for St John Paul II in
“If you have Mass in the [Phoenix] Park and you have…one less than in
1979, then people will be making comparisons,” Dr Martin pointed out.
However, he added: “This is a very different Pope. This Pope knows what
he wants to do himself. He doesn’t want to repeat what others have
done…he’s unpredictable…he’ll do his own thing when he comes.”
Pressed on the idea of a “big Mass”, the archbishop said, “There will
be an interest in a large Mass as part of the world gathering of
families, but if you get out the plans from 1979 and start to execute
them…that’s not what [Pope Francis] is going to do. There will be a
qualitative difference and he will address the changes that are there