The Catholic Church "of the future will be a very different place" and "a new way of ministering as Church" will be needed, Bishop Fintan Monahan of Killaloe has said.
Covid-19 has "radically changed our lives and Church," Bishop Monahan said. "Most people are of the view that our Church will be a very different place as we emerge from the global pandemic. Even prior to lockdown, numbers engaging with Church had declined dramatically and many are of the view that this decline will be greatly accelerated afterwards."
In an Easter letter to his diocese, which includes parishes in Clare, Laois, Limerick, Offaly and Tipperary, he said: "These changes will also extend to consideration of how our parishes and diocese are funded with the likelihood that parish income will decrease substantially in the coming years."
This would have “an effect on how each parish manages its own affairs and also on the services provided by the diocese which are currently funded from parish contributions. This will prompt us to ask, what are the priorities for using scarce resources?”
A meeting with pastoral area representatives during lockdown included observations that “there has been a sea-change in culture during the pandemic” with people feeling “there would be less people participating regularly in liturgy after Covid. We would have smaller communities. This would raise questions about the sustainability of some of our communities especially in rural areas,” he said.
Another observation was that “for some, Mass is no longer attractive and we need to explore other creative ways of celebrating faith also,” he said. “Some felt that the issue of patronage of our schools needs to be explored. There would seem to be too many Catholic schools for the numbers now participating in Church. Can we address the issue of diversity of patronage?” he asked.
It was not enough “to open our Church buildings and return to the way things were pre-Covid-19. This would simply postpone the necessary changes required for the Church of the future. Planning for the future will take time, creativity and an openness to change,” he said.
Bishop Monahan hoped people would “engage with pastoral areas in a structured way to present these questions and others, to engage, encourage dialogue, obtain feedback, all of which will contribute to planning for the future.”