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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Ageing priests in Ireland said to increasingly face depression, isolation

Ageing priests across Ireland are increasingly falling victim to depression and mental health problems, an influential group representing Catholic clerics warned.

With the average age of Irish priests nearly 70 and significant numbers who are in their 80s and some who are even in their 90s still working, leaders of the Association of Catholic Priests said finding a solution for the welfare of what it describes as “Ireland’s lost tribe of priests” will be their primary objective at their upcoming annual general meeting opening on 16th November.

Fr Brendan Hoban, an association founder, said his scheduled talk at the meeting – titled Are We Killing Our Priests? – will focus on the growing sense of despair and health issues facing older clerics.

He said the problem has been fuelled by the increasing pressure priests face to continue working beyond the normal retirement age of 75 because there are not enough ordained clerics coming through the seminaries to replace them.

“Not so long ago, priests would normally have expected to retire at 75, but that’s no longer the case,” Fr Hoban, 69, told Catholic News Service. “Because of the vocations crisis, most priests are being encouraged to continue working. So in effect, retirement is no longer an option. It’s almost as if it’s been abolished.”

Picture: St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin is filled for St Patrick’s Day Mass on 17th March 2016. (Picture by NEWZULU/John Rooney NEWZULU/PA Images).