Bishops congratulate Bishop Michael Duignan on his appointment as Bishop of Galway and pay tribute to Bishop Brendan Kelly on his retirement

11 Feb 2022

Following Pope Francis’ appointment today of Bishop Michael Duignan, Bishop of Clonfert, as the new Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora, bishops have congratulated Bishop Duignan on his appointment and have paid tribute to Bishop Brendan Kelly on his retirement.  Please see statements by bishops below: 

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of Dromore and Primate of All Ireland

Today, I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to Bishop Brendan Kelly for his ministry as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora over the past four years, having previously served as Bishop of Achonry since 2008.  Bishop Brendan has been extremely generous in responding to God’s call as a priest and as a bishop.  He is a deeply spiritual, warm and generous pastor with a sensitivity towards those on the margins. The Bishops’ Conference has benefited greatly from his wisdom and expertise  in the field of education, liturgy, and especially as one of our key advisors on the Irish language.

The Bishops’ Conference is particularly grateful for his oversight of the translation and production the new altar edition of An Leabhar Aifrinn Rómhánach, the Irish translation of the Roman Missal.  This project was dear to his heart as a native Irish speaker; its preparation and production was the fruit of years of intensive work and collaboration of many individuals from throughout the Church, and Bishop Brendan deserves great credit for helping to deliver an Irish Missal that we can all be proud of.

On a personal level I will remember Bishop Brendan’s hearty laugh and treasure his kindly and affable support.  He has always added a caring pastoral perspective on our discussions and was never slow to remind the bishops that we are first and foremost pastors of our people, shepherds of our flocks.

I have no doubt that the clergy and faithful of Galway, and of Achonry, will join me in wishing Bishop Brendan God’s blessing for a well-deserved joyful and peaceful retirement.

I also wish to offer my warmest congratulations and prayerful support to Bishop Michael Duignan in his new episcopal role as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora.  As well as holding his new appointment, as announced today by the Holy Father, Bishop Duignan will continue in his ministry as the Bishop of Clonfert.

Today’s news follows on from last November’s announcement from the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, His Excellency Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, that the Diocese of Galway, and the Diocese of Clonfert, would both be pastorally served by one bishop in persona episcopi*. No doubt this appointment will present Bishop Michael and the people of both dioceses with challenges and opportunities for the future and open up new possibilities for sharing and enhancing the mission of the Church in these areas. There will be much to learn from this new initiative with regard to similar possibilities elsewhere in the country.

Archbishop Francis Duffy, Archbishop of Tuam

I welcome today’s announcement that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Michael Duignan as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora in addition to his current responsibilities as Bishop of Clonfert.

Bishop Michael brings with him his valuable experience as a Diocesan Bishop, as a member of the Irish Episcopal Conference, his contributions to the meetings of the Western Bishops, and his previous extensive work in education and administration in his native diocese of Elphin.

The appointment of one bishop to oversee two distinct dioceses is a new departure in Ireland, but Bishop Michael assumes his new role at a very exciting time.  The synodal pathway, upon which Pope Francis has set the Church, invites the participation of all in the life of the Church.  At a local level this will manifest itself in more vibrant engagement of the faithful in the life of the dioceses under Bishop Michael’s care, and in every diocese.  It will, I am confident, be an enormous support to Bishop Michael in his episcopal ministry. 

I thank Bishop Michael for his warm welcome and fraternal support since my appointment as Archbishop of Tuam. 

Go mbeannaí an Tiarna an tEaspag Mícheál agus muintir Chluain Fearta  agus muintir dheoise na Gaillimhe, Chill Mac Duach agus Chill Fhionnúrach ar an lá stairiúil agus dóchasach seo.

Bishop Michael’s appointment heralds the retirement of Bishop Brendan Kelly. On my own behalf, and on behalf of the Western Bishops, I congratulate Bishop Brendan on the announcement of his retirement.  I also wish to thank Bishop Brendan for his sterling leadership of the Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora since his return to Galway exactly four years ago today, and for his ministry as Bishop of Achonry for the previous ten years.  Bishop Brendan has contributed enormously to the meetings of the Western Bishops over the years, and his wisdom and insights were always appreciated and accepted in the constructive and positive manner in which they were offered.

When Bishop Brendan’s appointment as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora was announced in December 2017, he said, “Please pray for me that I may give my life as Jesus did in service of you, His people.”  There is abundant evidence that this prayer was heard and answered. 

Go dtuga an Tiarna sláinte mhaith don Easpag Breandán chun taitneamh a bhaint as na blianta fada de scor torthúil. 

Bishop John Fleming, Bishop of Killala

Joining with the bishops of the Metropolitan Province of Tuam, I extend my congratulations to Bishop Michael Duignan on his appointment to succeed Bishop Brendan Kelly as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora.  His expertise in theology, pastoral care, and administration will continue to enrich the Dioceses of the west, as they have since his ordination as Bishop in 2019.

The pastoral leadership of the Diocese of Galway, and the Diocese of Clonfert, under one bishop, will bring a fresh set of responsibilities to the ministry of Bishop Michael, but I have no doubt that he will navigate his wider pastoral role with the same wisdom and gifts that he has brought to bear on his episcopal ministry to date.

Today, I also wish to offer Bishop Brendan Kelly my prayerful good wishes on his retirement.  As a priest and bishop, Bishop Brendan has always personified the Good News of the Gospel in terms of his humanity, spirituality, generosity and keen intellect.  I am fortunate to count him as a dear friend.  Bishop Brendan is a much loved servant to the people of Galway, his previous diocese of Achonry and throughout the Church in Ireland.  I pray that God blesses Bishop Brendan with a peaceful and long retirement. 

Bishop Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin

Between his ordination as a priest in 1994 and his appointment as Bishop of Clonfert in 2019, Bishop Michael Duignan served as a Priest of the Diocese of Elphin. I know him as a generous and hard-working colleague, who has contributed enormously in the field of Catholic education and in the pastoral care of young adults.  Before he left Elphin in 2019, he had also developed significant experience in Diocesan administration.

Bishop Michael took responsibility for the Diocese of Clonfert just a matter of months before the Covid-19 pandemic and I know how hard he has worked to support the priests and the parishioners of his Diocese through that difficult time.  His insight and his gift for communicating the essential message of the Gospel have already made an important contribution to the mission of the Church here in the West.

I very much welcome the announcement this morning that Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Duignan as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora while remaining also Bishop of Clonfert.  It is a historical milestone for both the Diocese of Clonfert and the Diocese of Galway as well as being an enormous challenge for Bishop Michael himself.  I pray that God will richly bless his ministry and that his creativity and hard work will be nourished by faith, hope and charity, as he serves the people of the two Dioceses for many years to come.

I am conscious that for Bishop Brendan Kelly, there will undoubtedly be an element of sadness now that his term as Bishop of Galway is coming to an end.  I am conscious of the gift which he brought to the Catholic Church in Ireland through his service of Catholic education and of the Liturgy.  It was he who oversaw the publication of the new translation of the Missal as Gaeilge.  On a personal level, I wish to acknowledge his great kindness to me over the past seven years since I came to work in the Tuam Province.  May God bless him with good health as he rests from his labours.

Bishop Paul Dempsey, Bishop of Achonry

I would like to congratulate Bishop Michael on his new role as Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora. Bishop Michael and myself were both ordained as bishops within one year of each other. As a result, we have had the shared experience of being relatively new diocesan bishops and members of the Irish Episcopal Conference. I have worked closely with Bishop Michael as part of the Conference’s Commission for Pastoral Care, along with our other common responsibilities working in the area of migrants.

I look forward to continuing my work with Bishop Michael, benefiting from his expertise in these particular areas in the future. I wish him the best in his ministry as the new Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora. I also wish Bishop Brendan Kelly, who was my predecessor in the Diocese of Achonry, a joyful retirement and will miss his guidance and good humour.

Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop Emeritus of Tuam:

Gúim chuile bheannacht, sláinte agus fad saoil ar an Easpag Breandán Ó Cheallaigh agus é ag dul ar scor tar éis ceithre bliana déag mar Easpag.  Ag an am céanna cuirim fáilte croiúil roimh an t-Easpag Micheál Ó Duigneáin agus déanaim comhghairdeas leis agus é ag glacadh lena chúraimí nua mar Easpag na Gaillimhe.

Since his appointment as Bishop of Achonry fourteenyears ago, and more recently as Bishop of Galway, it has been a privilege to work alongside Bishop Brendan Kelly.

Here in the West as Bishops, we have been working together, sharing resources, supporting each other and endeavouring to meet the challenges of proclaiming Christ’s Gospel.  With his pastoral strengths Bishop Brendan combined an enquiring mind and a creative imagination in the promotion of God’s kingdom.  His approach has always been informed, his judgment trustworthy and collaborative.

As a close friend and trusted colleague, I join with the Priests, Religious and people of the Diocese of Galway in praying good health on Bishop Brendan.

Having worked with Bishop Michael Duignan for two years since his appointment as Bishop of Clonfert, I am aware of his many gifts, his energy and enthusiasm.  I congratulate him on becoming Bishop of Galway in addition to his responsibility as Bishop of Clonfert.


Notes for editors

  • *Bringing Two or More Dioceses Together in persona episcopi

The Latin term in persona episcopi literally means “in the person of the bishop” and is used by the Catholic Church to designate the union of two or more dioceses, under one bishop. In fact, the determining factor in this case is that both dioceses are pastorally governed by a sole bishop. The diocesan structures and institutions (cathedral churches, cathedral chapters, curial offices and officials, college of consultors, presbyteral council, diocesan pastoral councils, etc), diocesan goods (lands, bank accounts, cultural properties, etc) and juridical competences in Canon Law and Civil Law (trusteeship, charities, etc.) of each of the respective dioceses are left unaltered.

In other words, the only change is that, instead of each diocese having its own respective bishop, one sole bishop exercises the pastoral governance of both dioceses equally, according to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the one and the other.

Each diocese maintains its identity and handles its own cultural heritage as it deems fit. Each keeps its own personnel or can share with other dioceses; priests will not normally be asked to minister beyond their own diocese unless by a special request or mandate. Each diocese will handle its financial administration independently and will make its own pastoral decisions as usual. Of course, the mutual cooperation between both dioceses, as has been hitherto the case, is not excluded. In fact, constant consultation, support and sharing of expertise ought to be encouraged. From the experience of other dioceses where this has been in place, there is evidence that many factors enhance the future survival of the dioceses which unite and cooperate in persona episcopi.

This form of union under one bishop is not an amalgamation and does not suppress either of the two dioceses. It respects the autonomy and allows for the functionality of the individual jurisdictions. It is a mild and practical form of union between dioceses and can be a temporary or permanent provision.                                                        

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