DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) A majority of Roman Catholic priests in Ireland support ending mandatory celibacy and granting a greater role to married deacons, a first-of-its-kind survey found.
The poll, conducted for the weekly Irish Catholic newspaper, asked all 2,832 diocesan priests in the predominantly Catholic country to participate and 29 percent did.
On mandatory celibacy for priests, 57 percent favored change with 40 percent opposed, though only 37 percent felt ending the rule would encourage more people to become priests.
About 78 percent said they would support introduction of deacons in a nation where priests increasingly complain of too much work over too large an area. Deacons perform all priestly duties except hearing confessions and consecrating the Eucharist.
In the United States, which has permanent deacons, surveys of priests in 53 dioceses showed majority support for open discussion of celibacy, typically by two-thirds margins, except in Fort Wayne, Ind., Harrisburg, Pa., Kalamazoo, Mich., Philadelphia and Stockton, Calif.
Two groups opposed to mandatory celibacy ran the surveys. Response rates in dioceses varied from 28 percent to 45 percent of priests. The estimated margin of error was plus or minus 10 percentage points.
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