Papal Nuncio sees new enthusiasm among young Irish Catholics

Signs of ‘green shoots’ after years of crisis

Susan Gately

Young people are helping lead a rebirth of the Catholic Church in Ireland, the Papal Nuncio to this country has said.

Archbishop Charles J. Brown described the rebirth as the spring after 20 years of winter, saying he sees “green shoots”.

“You see a renewed enthusiasm among young Catholics in Ireland now,” he said. The new generation of Catholics, some of whom are studying for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, the national seminary in Maynooth, or the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, will “lead the Church forward into the next decade,” he added. Young Catholics represent what is best in the tradition of Vatican II, “the idea of communicating the ancient unchanging faith in a new, vibrant and attractive way”.

He said he sees positive signs on the vocations front, but that it is realistic to expect that the overall number of priests will continue to decline for a while.

“Parishes will have to share resources and combine and cluster, and that will be an opportunity for lay people to take on a larger role in the Church,” he said.

Women, “the heart of the Church,” should be more visible, assuming roles in administration “even in Holy See. I’d be very surprised if we don’t see that happen under Pope Francis”. He also welcomed the new generation of “very impressive” female theologians.

But he said priestly vocations remain crucial for Church renewal.

“Without the priesthood, the Eucharist does not exist, and without the Eucharist there is no Church,” he said.