Minority groups, "from divorced or separated people to LGBT+, migrants and the Travelling community", should all feel they belong to Catholic parishes, as should "those who consider themselves 'cultural Catholics'," a new pastoral plan published by the Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly on Sunday has said.
The Archdiocese includes 46 parishes in Tipperary and Limerick.
The plan also says that the inclusion of women in leadership roles must be “a priority” and that “images of families used in parish and diocesan literature should represent all family types.”
Parishes are asked “to identify minority groups who may feel less welcome or who do not feel they belong and plan events that convey hospitality and welcome.” The plan places particular emphasis on the importance of youth in outlining a future for the Church.
The Archdiocese's pastoral plan 'Seeds of Hope'was launched by Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly at Holy Cross Abbey near Thurles and is described as a "blueprint for transitioning the Church to this new era of inclusivity".
Archbishop O’Reilly said “the Church must change, not because of necessity or because of declining vocations and attendance at Masses but because it is the right thing to do. And in doing so, it is the Holy Spirit that is guiding us”.
He continued: “We must step out of the past, embrace the present and move to the future. The model whereby a public attends Mass once a week is not what the Church is about. It is and must be about the Church being out in the community rather than the community being in the Church.”
The Church “is changing now and the priest-led Church of the past will need to embrace a partnership approach with people into the future,” he said.
The plan says that “the inclusion of women in leadership roles as equal members of the Church is a priority into the future. Women must be enabled to fulfil their role in developing the mission of the Church.”
Failure to recognise the role of women in the Church was one of "the biggest issues the Church has faced over recent decades". In recognition of this, it says, the Archdiocese recently appointed Katherine Dullaghan as its Director of Pastoral Planning and Development.
The plan recommends training for both priests and lay people, as they move towards a new model of co-responsibility, which will mean “greater participation by people, the use of facilitation skills, greater involvement in decision-making by lay people and the development of the ability to communicate with all parishioners”.
The “priest-led Church of the past will need to embrace a partnership approach with people into the future,” it says. A new style of Church leadership “requires a deeper trust in lay people. This model will need to understand the nature of volunteering. The aim is to have many people doing a little rather than few people doing much,” it says.
However, it emphasises “respect for the work which many priests have done in the past”.