Catholic Bishop of Clonfert Michael Duignan (51) has been appointed ‘to serve concurrently’ as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora.
The two dioceses concerned “united ‘in persona episcopi’, pastorally administered by a single bishop, will retain their respective rights, obligations and legal autonomy”, it was announced on Friday.
The event was marked by a Mass in Galway Cathedral on Friday morning where the chief celebrant was Archbishop Jude Okolo, papal nuncion, with Bishop Duignan and outgoing Bishop of Galway Brendan Kelly concelebrating.
When this event was first announced last November, it was emphasized that “this form of union of two dioceses under one bishop is not a merger and does not suppress either diocese. The two dioceses will continue to maintain their own integrity and autonomy as is, but will work more closely together, as much as possible, through the person and ministry of a single bishop.
It is expected to be the first such union on the island of Ireland where there are 26 dioceses for a population of 4.5 million Catholics. Currently each diocese has its own bishop with an additional auxiliary bishop in Armagh.
Taking into account the current vacancies in Ardagh and Clonmacnois, Ossory and Dromore, this means that Ireland has 24 Catholic bishops for a population equivalent to the number of Catholics in the American Archdiocese of Los Angeles which has only six bishops, of whom an archbishop.
Originally from Bealnamulla near Athlone in County Roscommon and the eldest of a family of six, Bishop Duignan was ordained in 1994 for his native diocese of Elphin where he served as Chancellor and Diocesan Secretary before being appointed Bishop of Clonfert in October 2019.
One of the smallest Catholic dioceses in Ireland, Clonfert has 36,000 faithful in 24 parishes. The Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora has a population of 105,707 Catholics divided into 39 parishes.