About half of the current seven vacancies in the Irish hierarchy will likely be filled by candidates proposed by the outgoing Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, according to Vatican sources.
Currently there are seven of Ireland’s 26 dioceses awaiting the appointment of a new bishop.
Sources in Rome this week indicated to The Irish Catholic that a number of these files were at an advanced stage when Archbishop Brown was transferred to Albania last month.
These recommendations are expected to proceed. However, the names of the new bishops will likely not be revealed until Pope Francis has appointed a new Apostolic Nuncio to Dublin, which may be in the summer.
In choosing a new bishop, the Pope generally chooses from a list of three candidates – a terna – which is forwarded to Rome by the nuncio. However, the Pontiff is free to appoint a candidate not on the list.
Archbishop Brown’s successor is expected to canvass potential candidates for remaining dioceses when he arrives in Dublin.
Clonfert has been awaiting the appointment of a new bishop since 2013 when John Kirby reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. In 2014, John Buckey in Cork & Ross turned 75 making the selection of a new bishop necessary.
Likewise, in Raphoe, Philip Boyce turned 75 in January 2015. Later that same year Michael Smith in Meath reached the mandatory retirement age.
In July 2016, both Martin Drennan in Galway and Seamus Freeman in Ossory announced that they were stepping down due to ill health.
Just three months later, Liam MacDaid in Clogher retired early for the same reason.
Of the 19 serving diocesan bishops in Ireland, Archbishop Brown has had a role in the appointment of 11.
Nine of the current 19 were chosen by Pope Francis, five by Pope Benedict and the remaining five by St John Paul II.
When the current vacancies have been filled, Pope Francis will have appointed 16 of the 26 diocesan bishops.
The next vacancy in the Irish hierarchy is not expected to occur until 2019, when Leo O’Reilly in Kilmore will reach retirement age.