The Pope may have to fast-track a replacement for Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in Dublin or face the prospect of the country’s largest diocese not having a bishop for up to a year, The Irish Catholic understands.
Informed sources confirm that Dr Martin – who is due to reach the mandatory age of 75 at which he must submit a letter of resignation to the Pope in April – is adamant that he does not want a delay in his retirement being accepted. He has reportedly confided in senior clerics that he is tired and is keen to move on and see new blood running Dublin Archdiocese.
It is set to intensify clerical speculation about potential successors.
Ultimately, it is up to the Pope whether to accept the resignation immediately or wait until a successor has been chosen before letting Dr Martin leave the scene.
Late last year, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo indicated to this newspaper in an interview that the process of compiling a list of potential successors to give to the Pope for the archdiocese would not begin until Dr Martin’s letter of resignation was submitted on April 8.
“It is delicate and still very premature for discussion. Otherwise, it could raise a flurry of undesired opinions. We wait until the Holy Father gives the go-ahead,” Archbishop Okolo told this paper in December.
“As a servant, I cannot go ahead of my master. We wait until he blows the whistle, and the race takes off. I will let you know!”
However, it is understood that since Christmas the archbishop has intensified pressure for a speedy acceptance of his resignation from the diocese he has led since he succeeded Cardinal Desmond Connell in 2004.
If the Pope grants the request for an immediate retirement in April, it could see Dublin governed by a priest-administrator for a period while candidates for eventual succession as Archbishop of Dublin are vetted and submitted to Pope Francis unless the Pontiff decided to fast-track the process.
It is understood that about a half dozen potential successors are under discussion. However, it is understood that a terna – the formal document proposing three potential candidates to become archbishop – has not yet been prepared for submission to the powerful Vatican Congregation for Bishops.
While the body – which is made up of senior prelates from all over the world and Vatican cardinals – will make recommendations to the Pope, it is ultimately for Francis to choose one of these candidates, ask for a new shortlist or select his own candidate independent of the selection process.