Statement from the Diocese of Kilmore on the retirement of Bishop Leo O’Reilly as Bishop of Kilmore

31 Dec 2018

Some months ago Bishop Leo O’Reilly, on medical advice, wrote to Pope Francis requesting him to accept his early retirement as Bishop of Kilmore due to ill-health, in accordance with Canon 401, #2 of the Code of Canon Law.  It is announced this morning in Rome that Pope Francis has accepted Bishop O’Reilly’s request and that, accordingly, the bishop’s retirement takes effect immediately.

Bishop Leo wants to ensure that the People of God throughout the Diocese of Kilmore should hear from him the decision about his retirement.  Looking back in gratitude on his ministry of twenty two years as bishop, he also wishes to take this opportunity of thanking all who have helped him along the way by their work, their friendship, their support and their prayers.  With this in mind Bishop Leo has written a pastoral letter to the priests and people of the diocese which was read at all Masses yesterday throughout the diocese.  The pastoral letter is now available on

Bishop Leo was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Kilmore by Pope John Paul II on 12 November 1996.  He was ordained bishop on 2 February 1997.  He was installed as Bishop of Kilmore in succession to Bishop Francis MacKiernan on 15 November 1998 in the Cathedral of Saint Patrick & Saint Felim, Cavan.

The governance of the diocese is now assumed by the College of Consultors, a group of diocesan priests who act as advisors to the bishop.  The Consultors will meet at 11.00am on Wednesday 2 January to elect a Diocesan Administrator in accordance with Canon 421 #1 which states that ‘Within eight days of receiving notification of the vacancy of an episcopal see, a Diocesan Administrator is to be elected by the College of Consultors, to govern the diocese for the time being…’  The newly elected Diocesan Administrator will  be responsible for the leadership of the diocese until a new bishop is appointed by Pope Francis.

Notes to Editors

    • The Diocese of Kilmore encompasses most of County Cavan, the north-western part of County Leitrim and portions of Counties Meath, Fermanagh and Sligo.  It comprises 34 parishes and has a Catholic population of some 69,000.  The diocesan patron is Saint Felim and the Cathedral, located in Cavan, is dedicated to Saints Patrick & Felim.
    • Bishop Leo O’Reilly is a native of Kill, near Cootehill, Co Cavan.  He was born there on 10 April 1944. Having completed his studies at Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan and at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, he was ordained to the priesthood on 15 June 1969.  He was a member of the teaching staff of Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan, from 1969 to 1976, then undertook post-graduate studies in the Gregorian University in Rome and received a doctorate in Biblical Theology in 1982.  He returned to the diocese and served as school chaplain in Bailieborough Community School, Co Cavan, until 1988, when he joined the Kilmore Mission to Minna, Nigeria.  After seven years in Nigeria, which were divided between parish work in Minna and teaching Scripture in the Saint Paul’s Missionary Society Seminary in Abuja, he returned to take up parish duties as Parish Priest in Ballyhaise in 1995.  He was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Kilmore on 12 November 1996.  Bishop Emeritus O’Reilly will continue to live in the diocese of Kilmore and will move shortly from Bishop’s House, Cullies to accommodation in Cavan town.
    • Canon 401 #2 of the Code of Canon Law: “A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”  The relevant Church legislation covering the period of a vacant see is provided in Canons 416-430 of the Code of Canon Law (1983), along with the provisions set out in paragraphs 235-246 of the Appendix to the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops – Apostolorum Successores (2004).

Principal features of Bishop Leo O’Reilly’s tenure as Bishop of Kilmore

Collaborative style of Ministry:  Bishop O’Reilly has worked tirelessly throughout the last twenty years to involve all the people of God, as prescribed by the Second Vatican Council, in the life of the church in Kilmore.  During his time as bishop three diocesan Pastoral Assemblies were held, in which lay, religious and priests of the diocese gathered to listen to one another and to draw up pastoral plans for the diocese.  Pastoral Councils and Church Finance Committees were set up in every parish and a Diocesan Pastoral Council and other diocesan committees with lay representatives were established during that time.  In order to promote the involvement of the lay people, as well as priests and religious, in the life of the Church, Bishop O’Reilly established the Kilmore Diocesan Pastoral Centre in the boarding wing of the old Saint Patrick’s College.

Child safeguarding:  During his episcopate Bishop O’Reilly oversaw the establishment of excellent policies and procedures for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults throughout the diocese.  These safeguarding structures, which involve a diocesan safeguarding director, trainers, safeguarding personnel in every parish, a Diocesan Advisory Panel and a Diocesan Safeguarding Committee, have been highly praised in successive safeguarding audits by the National Board of Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Building Developments:  During his twenty years as bishop of the diocese Bishop Leo facilitated the building of the wonderful new diocesan college, Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan.  Besides this he oversaw the restoration of the beautiful Hague building, the former Saint Patrick’s College, which is now functioning as a diocesan pastoral centre.

New Ministries:  To meet the needs of a changing world, parishes have been grouped into pastoral areas and pastoral assistants have been appointed in many of these pastoral areas.  Bishop O’Reilly introduced the ministry of deacon during his episcopate and two deacons are now working in the diocese.

Finance Officer:  Bishop O’Reilly appointed a new Finance Officer or diocesan accountant who has, in the last few years, revolutionized the way in which finances are managed both at parish and diocesan level.  The diocese has now financial structures in place which meet the standards required by the Charities Act.