Leading Irish cleric says let priests marry

DUBLIN, (Reuters) – One of the most prominent  members of the Irish Catholic Church has called for an end to  compulsory celibacy for priests, saying it is pushing new  recruits away.

Retired bishop of Derry Edward Daly, who rose to prominence  during Northern Ireland’s decades of sectarian conflict, said  the church should act urgently to address the lack of young  clerics.

“I feel now that celibacy is damaging to the church and I do  feel now that we have to look at that issue very profoundly at  this point in time and quite urgently,” Daly said in comments  broadcast on Irish state broadcaster RTE on Tuesday.

Daly said he was saddened by good men who reject the  priesthood because of mandatory celibacy, and had been  disheartened by the rising average age of priests.

The number of people joining the priesthood in Ireland has  fallen sharply in recent decades as a series of clerical sex  abuse scandals undermined the church’s reputation and ended its  dominance in the once-devout country.

“I just thought to myself, ‘What is going to happen, where  are the younger priests going to come from?’,” he said. “I am  sure many people in the church feel this way.”

Daly became a symbol of peace in Ireland on “Bloody Sunday”  in 1972 when television cameras captured him holding up a white  handkerchief while ministering to the injured after British  troops opened fire during a civil rights parade.

A critic of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that fought  against British rule in Northern Ireland, and other paramilitary  groups, Daly was a leading figure in the campaign to free six  people wrongly imprisoned for an IRA bomb attack in the English  city of Birmingham. They were acquitted in March 1991.

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