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Irish Churches 'must change' if they are to survive

23 January 2015


The "Apostle of Ireland": St Patrick

The "Apostle of Ireland": St Patrick

THE current form of ministry in Ireland, as practised by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, must undergo radical transformation if either are to survive, the former Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, the Very Revd Dr Robert MacCarthy, said on Wednesday.

Dr MacCarthy told an interdenominational forum in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, that: "Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland are trying to maintain the set-apart, 'Jack of all trades' ministry which both have inherited from the Middle Ages. Essentially, one person is respons-ible for all ministry within a given geographical area, and any delegation is from him or her. It made perfect sense in the Middle Ages, but it makes little sense today."

Dr MacCarthy said that the RC Church's pastoral councils were "light years ahead" of the present Anglican select-vestry system. "The [RC] parish priest of my rural parish in South Tipperary has recently announced that he will be the last priest there, and that after his time it will be up to the pastoral council to make arrangements in ministry.

"Ironically, this will leave the Roman Catholic Church in a much more radical position than the Church of Ireland. If this were an Anglican parish, the parish would simply be combined with its neighbour, and the Rector would merely extend his jurisdiction over a wider area."

The Irish position was a missed opportunity for the Church of Ireland to show a more flexible approach to ministry, Dr MacCarthy said. "Some recent articles in The Furrow have shown the way forward, and will give the lead which the Church of Ireland should have been giving."

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