.- The Archbishop of Edinburgh has announced the need to close parishes in light of a significant priest shortage and declining church attendance. He said the “root of the problem” is that Scottish parishes weren’t producing enough home-grown priests.
In a pastoral letter issued Sunday, Cardinal Keith O'Brien laid out a radical restructuring plan, which involves redrawing parish boundaries and creating parish clusters that will share a pastor. The letter also calls for a consultation. Parishioners will also be asked to do more to keep parishes going.
Church officials say the faithful will have to get used to the idea of traveling long distances to church, just as they drive to their local out-of-town shopping center.
Figures show that the number of active priests in the diocese is expected to fall from 63 to 34 in 10 years. The average age of priests in Scotland is above 60, and there are very few new vocations. The cardinal has already called for older men to consider becoming priests, including widowers.
Furthermore, religious practice has dropped in the country. The number of practicing Catholics is a little more than 200,000 - down 20 percent since the mid-1990s. In the last decade, the number of Catholic couples in Edinburgh baptizing their children has also dropped, from 1,910 to 1,075.
"The fact remains: we are not producing enough home-grown Scottish priests. That is the root of the problem,” Cardinal O’Brien reportedly said. "Catholics have been spoilt by the fact that we had a huge influx of Irish clergy who sustained the Scottish Church when it wasn't sustaining itself.” He also thanked the missionary priests from Poland, Malta and Africa.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Glasgow - Scotland's largest diocese - said there was no need for similar reorganization at this time.