Derry should have a new Catholic bishop before the end of the year, an influential commentator on Irish religious affairs has told the ‘Journal’.
Michael Kelly, editor of the ‘Irish Catholic’ newspaper - Ireland’s best-selling religious newspaper - believes parishioners in the Derry diocese won’t be waiting too much longer for a new church leader.
He says a decision by the Vatican to shelve plans to reorganise dioceses across the island has “simplified” the process of appointing bishops.
He also believes that the recent announcement that Monsignor Eamon Martin - Derry’s Diocesan Administrator - is to be the next leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland will not “slow down” the process of replacing Dr. Seamus Hegarty who retired as Bishop of Derry at the end of 2011.
He said: “I know Monsignor Martin was widely tipped to be the next Bishop of Derry and many people are now of the opinion that the decision to appoint him as the next Primate has, as it were, muddied the waters regarding a new Derry bishop.
“However, it’s not a case of going back to square one. That’s not the way things work. The Papal Nuncio will always have been looking at the bigger picture.”
Commenting on speculation about a replacement for Dr. Hegarty, Mr. Kelly said he had heard a number of names mentioned including Bishop Donal McKeown, currently Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor; Monsignor Bryan McCanny, PP VG, Limavady; and Father Timothy Bartlett, who, in recent years, has been a high profile spokesperson for the church.
Turning to Mgr. Martin, the ‘Irish Catholic’ editor says he believes the Derry man could be in his new role by the autumn.
“The Irish bishops are due to travel to Rome in the autumn to report to the Pope on the state of the church. Some are saying this could be Cardinal Brady’s last function as Primate.
“I tend to think it could be Monsignor Martin’s first function as the new leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland.”