Diocese of Raphoe could be axed as part of Vatican plans

The Diocese of Raphoe could be scrapped as the Vatican plans to reduce the number of archdioceses in the country.

A plan to reduce the 26 dioceses in Ireland has emerged as a major theme following a Vatican investigation -- the Apostolic Visitation -- into the Church in Ireland.

But the four Irish archbishops, led by Cardinal Seán Brady, are strongly resisting the terms of the Vatican plan that would cut the number of Irish dioceses and by default the number of bishops.

A committee met in Maynooth in September with the aim of drawing up plans that would remove smaller dioceses by setting a lower limit of 100,000 Catholics per diocese.

This would affect Cashel and Emly, Achonry, Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Clogher, Clonfert, Dromore, Elphin, Killala, Kilmore, Ossory and Raphoe.

However, the Irish Catholic Newspaper has learned that the members of the Apostolic visitation are understood to think a figure in the region of 300,000 Catholics per dioceses is more realistic to the needs of a modern Church.

This would ultimately see Raphoe come under the Derry diocese.

That amalgamation could see Bishop Phillip Boyce replace Dr Seamus Hegarty as the Bishop of this new diocese.

Bishop Hegarty announced earlier this month that he was standing down from the Derry Diocese.

But The Irish Catholic understands that the bishops will argue that dramatically cutting the number of dioceses would seriously undermine the historic roots of the ancient sees.

The diocesan structure here has come in for criticism from the visitation team and it is strongly felt in Rome that there are simply too many dioceses in Ireland.