People are ‘stretched to breaking point’ says Catholic Archbishop of Dublin

Advises parishes ‘to be courageous in moving beyond ways that no longer work in the Ireland of today’

People in Ireland are “pushed to limits most of us have never experienced before, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell said on Friday.

He said that “families, health-care systems and economies were all stretched to breaking point.”

In a reflection on the Good Friday 'Way of the Cross' procession from the Wellington monument to the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park, he continued "the war in Ukraine has raised our levels of anxiety and opened our hearts with compassion for those who have died, who are injured, homeless or refugees."

He wondered whether "perhaps for too long many of us have been passive bystanders in the crowd, watching at a distance the suffering, the daily struggle for survival of so many in our world without ever really being touched by their pain or moved into action. We remember today the people of Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Ukraine to name a few areas of conflict in the world."


It was the first Good Friday ‘Way of the Cross’ procession in the Phoenix Park for three years and Archbishop Farrell’s first since his appointment to Dublin in December 2020. Reflecting on the pandemic he said, at the third station where Jesus falls the first time, how “the virus has brought us all to our knees.”

The annual event is organised by lay Catholic Communion and Liberation group.

Pastoral letter

In a pastoral letter for Easter 2022 Archbishop Farrell told the Dublin faithful it was time to address "the specific challenges we face as a diocese." It was "very clear that the future will not look like the past. Our world has changed," he said. He invited each parish community to reflect on its own situation.

”Truly, we need to be courageous in moving beyond ways that no longer work in the Ireland of today,” he said. “The work we are now beginning will require commitment over the coming year and more,” he said.

In a sermon on Wednesday he said that in Dublin soon, with fewer priests, it “will be necessary to welcome new forms of ministry on the part of the women and men, serving and leading in their parishes alongside ordained clergy. We have already seen the power of new technology to connect with people in new and unexpected ways.” But, he emphasised, “the future of the Church is its people, because the Church is its people.”

In Ennis Co Clare this week Bishop of Killaloe Fintan Monahan commissioned 24 lay people to serve in ministries of pastoral care and catechetics/faith development.

“These new ministries are part of a diocesan response to the changing face of the Church in recent times, and this includes fewer priests. Whereas once there was at least one priest in every parish, now many parishes have no resident priest, rather they are served by the priests of the local pastoral area,” he said at a Mass in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on Wednesday.

Parishes would in future “be served by a team of priests and lay ministers working together to meet local pastoral needs. Some roles traditionally undertaken by priests will in future be carried out by the new lay ministers,” he said.

In what he described as "a truly historic" event, at St Muredach's Cathedral in Ballina Co Mayo, Bishop of Killala John Fleming and priests of the diocese renewed their "commitment to priesthood in the presence of representatives of every Parish Pastoral Council in this diocese" for the first time ever.

“This is truly a very significant expression of placing hope in faith for the future,” he said. Speaking of “a new pathway in our diocese” he said “let me give the last word to Albert Camus: Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times