Irish Catholic bishops speak of 'hostility' and 'persecution' of church

(Photo: REUTERS / Osservatore Romano)Pope Benedict XVI meets David Cooney (L), the new non-resident ambassador from Ireland to the Vatican, during a meeting at Clementine Hall in Vatican May 4, 2012. REUTERS / Osservatore Romano

The Bishop of Ferns Denis Brennan is the second Catholic leader in recent days to address the issue of increased hostility towards the church in Ireland, a country that was once considered a bedrock of Catholicism.

He warned a newly ordained Catholic priest about the hostility he will face in a changed Ireland, The Irish Times reported on June 11.

'You will feel the anger and hostility people have for the church in general directed at you,' one new priest was told

The Church in Ireland is undergoing "persecution", with people directing "anger" at clergy, bishops have warned, The Catholic Herald reported.

In an address at the ordination of a new priest in County Wexford, Bishop Brennan said, "You will feel the anger and hostility people have for the church in general directed at you."

"There is a lot of concern in church circles these days about the future," he added. "This is understandable given the volume of criticism and negativity directed at the church over recent times."

The bishop said, however, that Catholics should not be fearful, and this was not the first time people had written off the Church.

"In these Pentecost days we need to cast off our fears too, we are not the first generation of Christians to worry and wonder about the future. In every age people have written the obituary of the church and our age is no exception," the bishop said.

With 3.7 million members, the Catholic Church is the most populous Christian denomination in Ireland, comprising 78.3 percent of the population, according to Wikipedia.

But young people have started to show the same bent towards secularism that has become common in other European nations.

The Irish Times also reported the words of Bishop Leo O'Reilly of Kilmore, who said hostility to the Church is now a "settled part" of Irish culture.

"People from abroad are often astonished at the antipathy to the church displayed in our country," he said, adding that you don't "have to be paranoid" to believe the Church is undergoing persecution.

"It is not physical persecution but it is no less real for that. It is more subtle. It takes the form of gradual exclusion of church people or activities from the public space," he said.

"There is denigration of religious beliefs, practices and institutions on radio, television and on social and other media. There is often a focus on bad news about the church to the almost total exclusion of any good news."

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