A petition of more than 1,200 signatures has been sent to the Bishop of Kerry, Dr Ray Browne, in protest at his failure to appoint a resident priest in the parish of Kilcummin near Killarney.

The priest would replace the parish priest there, who has been transferred a fortnight ago.

Kilcummin, with a population of around 3,000 people, is one of eight parishes in the diocese without a resident priest.

In June, Bishop Browne announced a number of clerical changes in the diocese, prompted mainly by the retirement of three priests.

Like many dioceses, an ageing priesthood and a lack of vocations means there are fewer clergy, and eight of the 53 parishes in Kerry are now without resident priests.

Two public meetings in Kilcummin have been attended by hundreds of people. Collections at masses are also down significantly, since the stand-off began.

Dozens of people attended the handing over of the petition at the diocesan offices this evening.

Fr Nicholas Flynn accepted the petition at St Mary's Cathedral in Killarney, but made no comment.

In two statements issued since the clerical changes were announced, Bishop Browne said providing continuity of service in parishes in the diocese has been a challenge.

He said he appreciates the upset and sadness of the people of Kilcummin.

However, he also told a delegation from the parish that his decision would not be reversed.

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