Ireland Priests Numbers in Fast Decline

In the last three years, 20% of the priests and lay brothers have died.  In addition, the number of candidates to the priesthood is declining, while seminarians are very few.

Newsroom (18/01/2022 8:22 PM, Gaudium Press) “The island of saints,” “the island of the wise,” were familiar names used when referring to Ireland in the late Middle Ages.

Between the 5th and 7th centuries, Ireland gave more than 350 saints to the Church, when saints were not common. The seed planted by that St. Patrick flourished in all its splendour.

From Ireland, Catholicism spread to many places, bringing or sustaining the faith of numerous regions of old Europe. The Church in the USA also owes much to Ireland.

But now Ireland is without priests, with numbers in fast decline. 

The Irish Examiner reported last January 8 that more than 21% of its clergy (priests and lay brothers) have died in the past three years. The main factor for so many deaths is the advanced age of the priestly population. Analysts expect the percentage to remain high.


In 2014, there were about 2,067 diocesan priests. By that time, the ageing of the clergy had started to become a notorious factor.

By the end of 2018, there were 1,800 priests in active ministry and 720 retired, with the latter collaborating in covering vacations and in cases of illness of the active clergy.

In 2019, however, 174 religious women and 166 priests died. In 2020, the dead continued escalating: 191 women religious and 223 priests and brothers.

More by Gaudium Press  Cardinal Sarah: Priests Renounce Marriage, Family and Material Gains for Christ

By the end of September 2021, 131 religious women and 131 priests passed. Unfortunately, numbers could be higher since not all religious orders and dioceses have reported accurate data to the entity compiling the statistics.

In addition, the number of candidates to the priesthood is declining, while seminarians are very few.

Compiled by Gustavo Kralj

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected


Latest Articles