Northern Ireland

Catholic bishops may be planning 'priestless parishes'

Catholic bishops are drawing up radical plans for "priestless parishes", according to the Irish Catholic newspaper.

The decline in the number of Catholic priests could result in more services being led by lay people.

A discussion document on the matter will be discussed at a meeting of the hierarchy in October, the paper says.

The widespread shortage of priests is affecting countries from Belgium to Australia.

In June 2012, the Irish church appointed its first permanent deacons, and these married men may have a role to play in parishes where there is no priest.