At installation, Galway's new bishop notes need for less infrastructure

Bishop Brendan Kelly (speaking) and Bishop Michael Duignan (seated) concelebrate Mass at Galway Cathedral, Ireland, on Feb. 11, 2022 Bishop Brendan Kelly (speaking) and Bishop Michael Duignan (seated) concelebrate Mass at Galway Cathedral, Feb. 11, 2022. | Screenshot from

Bishop Michael Duignan of Galway and Kilmacduagh highlighted the diminishing role of the Church in the Republic of Ireland at his installation Mass on Sunday.

“Much of what the Church has built up in Ireland over the last two centuries is crumbling before our eyes,” Bishop Duignan, who is also Bishop of Clonfert, said May 1.

He acknowledged that pieces of infrastructure that “hinder rather than help the life of faith” at present will have to be let go of.

“It is clear that in the future, we will be a smaller faith community,” the bishop stated.

Bishop Duignan was born in Athlone, County Roscommon, in 1970. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Elphin in 1994. He was appointed Bishop of Clonfert, and consecrated a bishop, in 2019.

It was announced in November that the the dioceses of Clonfert and Galway and Kilmacduagh would be led by a single bishop, though remaining separate local Churches.

“Both dioceses will continue to maintain their own integrity and autonomy as is but will work closer together, where possible, through the person and ministry of a single bishop,” a Nov. 16, 2021 statement read.

The two dioceses are adjacent one another in the west of Ireland.

When Bishop Duignan, 51, was appointed to Galway in February, he said, “Under the guidance of St. Peter himself in the person of Pope Francis, we have been nudged together to do something genuinely new. To paraphrase the words of that great poet from the Aran Islands, Máirtín Ó Díreáin, we are being called to bring about a new ‘An tEarrach Thiar’ – a ‘Western Spring.’” 

In March 2021 the bishops of Ireland announced a national synodal assembly. 

Cardinal Mario Grech, the Secretary General of Synod of Bishops, told the bishops Feb. 3, 2021 that “A synodal process promises an ecclesial springtime -- a rebirth of an authentic Church.”

Ireland’s bishops said that the national synod would come at a “pivotal time” for the Church, which was once a dominant force in the country but now faces marginalization.

Reflecting on the “rapid transformation” of Ireland, a country with a population of almost five million people, they highlighted the “secularization of society,” and clerical abuse and the mother-and-baby homes scandal.

They also underlined the need to promote peace, a “culture of welcome,” and transparency, as well as supporting the family and young people. They also emphasized the “critical need to honor the contribution of women.”

“We are also aware that many people have left Church behind and in some cases feel ignored, excluded or forgotten -- we need to hear their voices also,” they said.

In a May 2018 referendum, the Republic of Ireland voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to its constitution, which provided legal protection for the unborn.

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