The Pope’s representative in Ireland has said that the process to streamline and merge Ireland’s dioceses has already begun, despite opposition from some quarters.
In an exclusive interview with The Irish Catholic, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo confirmed that “the process of amalgamation has already started”.
Following the high-profile 2010-2012 Vatican investigation of the Church in Ireland, one of the themes that emerged was a strong desire from many people to reduce the number of dioceses from 26 to as few as a dozen to streamline bureaucracy and reduce red tape.
It was felt that a leaner structure would make the Church more fit for mission in an increasingly secularised Ireland. However, it is understood that some senior bishops deeply oppose the move, opting instead for the status quo.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic in an extensive interview to be published December 19, Archbishop Okolo said: “All I can say is that the process of amalgamation has already started”.
“It will be slow and steady – to avoid hurts, shocks, and surprises. Everyone implicated in the matter will be involved. The people will effect the amalgamation, work out the details of the cohesion, and inform the Holy See,” he said.
Dr Okolo insisted that Rome wants the process to proceed from local consultations rather than imposing a top-down solution. He also said that the Holy See is conscious of the local sensitivities.
“I want to be discreet about it, in order not to go ahead. Because if I say it has begun, and the people will say, ‘but we don’t know about it.’ Yes, it has begun.
“The amalgamation begins from the grassroots. The communities, the meetings. In all the dioceses today, there are consultations going on…some don’t want to hear it,” he said.
In the interview in next week’s newspaper, Dr Okolo also speaks about speculation on the next Archbishop of Dublin, his disappointment about some aspects of the reporting of the visit of Pope Francis and his wider impressions of the Church and wider Irish society.
The archbishop also speaks about the huge influence of Irish missionaries on his native Nigeria.