Rival bishops deny 'race to ordain priests'.
IRELAND'S rival rebel bishops Michael Cox and Pat Buckley are battling it out to see who can ordain the most priests.
Bishop Pat Buckley has four men lined up for ordination.
One is a Cork-based radio journalist.
Bishop Buckley is also planning to consecrate a bishop.
The service is set to take place next month.
Bishop Cox, who ordained singer Sinead O'Connor, is set to ordain two men priests.
He has ordained four others since he carried out O'Connor's ordination.
He is planning to ordain more women - and a bishop.
But Bishop Buckley insisted there is no race between himself and Bishop Cox.
"Bishop Cox may be keen to ordain as many priests as he can because he might be dangerously ill," he said.
"But I have a lot of time on my hands and I'm dangerously well. There is no race as far as I can see it. But if there is, I'm a non-runner."
He said none of his priests will be ordained before 2001. He has had enquiries from 40 people who want to be ordained by him.
"If Bishop Cox ordains a million and all I do is five, then I'm happy," Buckley said.
"I don't want to set up an empire but I do want to be in a position to ordain people who not only want to be priests but have it in them to be good priests.
"The more quality people I help to be priests the better but this is not about quantity, it's about quality."
Bishop Cox also denied there was a race to ordain priests but admitted he wanted to ordain as many as possible before he dies.
"I am preparing for the moment I die," Bishop Cox, who suffers from a range of health problems, said.
"I want my work to live on after me and that is why I am ordaining new priests."
Although Buckley insists he has never stopped talking to Bishop Cox, there is a clear rift between them.
A further split occurred between Ireland's first woman priest Mother Frances and Bishop Buckley, who ordained her.
But Bishop Buckley last night said: "We are now back talking to each other at least once a fortnight."