Fr Gerry O’Connor, a Redemptorist priest from Mahon who is a member of the Association of Catholic Priests, has been holding regional meetings across the four provinces of Ireland, asking people what they would like discussed with the Pope while he is on Irish soil.
He said it was becoming very clear that to ensure the next generation of priests, changes have to be made, including allowing priests to marry.
“It is becoming very clear, there is no next generation of priests, there is only a trickle of vocations.
“That means you have just aged priests, many of which are tired, demoralised, and know there is no next generation coming.
“Every priest in the country would be able to identify someone in the community who would make a great priest, but who is already married or those that were previously priests, but left to get married who might be happy to come back and be priests.
“We believe there is a potential workforce of priests, but that the church rules are stopping that from happening.”
Fr O’Connor said they have been collating all the comments that people would like to say to Pope Francis and they will be issuing a public statement as well as communicating directly through the Papal Nuncio to the Pope.
"People want the church to be more of a listening church. People are very educated now and they would have something to offer the leadership of the church.
“There are many calls for women to be made priests, that the church should be more welcoming to the LGBT community. All these things are emerging.”
Fr O’Connor said he would love if the Pope looked at the idea of allowing priests to marry in some form that might secure the next generation.
“I hope that our Bishops are saying very clearly to Pope Francis that there is a crisis in Ireland, that there is no next generation of priests coming along, and yes there are lots of people who would make excellent priests and would be very happy to be priests, but the current church laws are prohibiting that.”
The Redemptorist priest said he would be happy to remain celibate, but felt the laws needed to be changed to ensure the Irish Catholic faith could continue.