Bishop Brian McGee of Argyll & the Isles has announced an 18-month diocesan discernment in order to tackle ‘challenging times’ for the Church there.
In a pastoral letter, he named the main difficulties they face as depopulation, declining church attendance, a lack of priests including having none currently in seminary, scandals, and the Covid 19 and cost-of-living crises.
The bishop said that he has appointed a working group of six laity and four clergy to organise the discernment process.
The process has begun its first stage with two months of spiritual preparation beginning following the publishing of the letter.
Bishop McGee is set to visit every parish in the diocese as part of this stage.
In February the diocese will then move to a consultative stage consisting of three questions centring on how the diocese can be more missionary, what are its resources, and how can it use those resources.
Bishop McGee said the method for the discernment ‘will be synodal’.
“By this I mean we will journey together prayerfully in an open, listening and reflective manner,” he said.
“This approach has been recommended by Pope Francis and it is my personal conviction that it is the correct one.”
Bishop McGee said he will be ‘be open to all suggestions except any which would be contrary to Church teaching’ but while the discernment process may require a ‘change of structures it will certainly demand a change in mindset and behaviour.’
“This may be difficult, even painful, but if it is God’s Will for us then it is for the best,” he said.
The diocese of Argyll and the Isles covers much of the Highlands and the Islands and around 3000 people attend Mass there every Sunday.