The Catholic Bishop of Limerick has said he can no longer guarantee that mass will be celebrated in all churches in the diocese every Sunday due to a lack of priests.
Bishop Brendan Leahy warned his flock to prepare for “new arrangements” that will also see lay people say prayers at funerals.
In a letter announcing the new clerical arrangements in the diocese, Dr Leahy warned that the number of priests in active ministry in the diocese is “declining rapidly”.
He said lay people will be leading a range of services going forward, from prayers at funerals to the preparation of children for the sacraments in parishes.
“The ageing profile of clergy is now very evident. It is clear at this stage that we can no longer guarantee the celebration of a Mass in each church in the diocese each Sunday,” he said.
A number of pastoral units in the west of Ireland diocese are set to lose a priest this autumn and he appealed to parishioners to face the challenges with realism and determination.
“The rapid changes are calling us to envisage and work towards putting in place new forms of lay leadership in our parish communities,” he said.