Republic of Ireland news

Diocese unable to pay priests' salaries as parishioner numbers drop

The Diocese of Waterford and Lismore has a shortage of funds

A CATHOLIC diocese had no money to pay its priests' wages over Christmas due to a dwindling congregation and falling parishioner contributions.

Waterford and Lismore spokesman Fr Liam Power said it had to take €5,000 from each parish's reserve funds to make up the deficit in the last quarterly salary payment.

Before that, administrators had to borrow from diocesan funds to pay the September salary.

Now they are waiting to see if there will be enough for the next payment in March.

"Long term, it's not sustainable," said Fr Power.

The diocese has around 60 priest and holds three envelope collections each year - at Christmas, Easter and in autumn - which are supposed to fund the salaries.

Speaking on Waterford radio programme 'Déise Today', Fr Power said the basket collection is used for church maintenance and upkeep and has always been kept separate from the envelope collection.

But he said that in recent times the envelope money hadn't been enough to make up the priests' salaries.

And he suggested that each parish could be set a minimum amount of money to raise, to ensure the payments are met.

"Each parish should be contributing enough to the common fund to support its own priests," said Fr Power. "It not, maybe they would have to contribute from the basket collection."

He attributed the decrease in funds to fewer people attending mass, adding that young people who do attend occasionally for special occasions are not in the habit of making contributions.

Priests in Waterford and Lismore receive a basic salary of €21,000 per year, with an extra allowance of up to €5,000 for certain ceremonies.

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