May 23, 2005

Ireland attracts overseas zeal as priest numbers fall

By Paul Majendie


DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland once used to send thousands of priests and nuns to spread Christianity abroad.

Now the trend has been reversed for the Roman Catholic church on the Emerald Isle.

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, trainee priests are now coming to Ireland from Eastern Europe to learn their trade. ...

Up to 60 percent of Irish Catholics still attend mass every week -- but just nine new priests are being ordained this year into a church that once dominated every facet of Irish life.

Ireland's Catholic Church, like others around the world, was shaken to its foundations by a string of scandals involving the sexual abuse of children by priests.

But now religious commentators point to other more pressing problems -- a top-heavy hierarchy battling to breathe new life into a church whose faithful are enjoying the secular delights of the Celtic Tiger -- Ireland's booming economy.

"People are thinking of having rather than being," said Doran, reflecting on the church's role in an increasingly secular society.

But just how badly have the child abuse scandals affected vocations?

"It is not as high profile as it was. But of course it is there in the background and always has the potential to hit the headlines when a case comes up," Doran said.

Posted by kshaw at May 23, 2005 08:52 AM