Seminarians increase worldwide
Vatican Statistical Yearbook figures
The latest edition of the Vatican's Statistical Yearbook (updated to 31 December 1997) reveals that vocations to the priesthood are increasing in Africa, Asia, Latin America and parts of Oceania.
In 1978, worldwide, there were 63,882 seminarians; at present there are 108,517, an increase of 69.87%. Africa and Asia, however, over that same period, have seen increases of 238.50% and 124.01% respectively.
In all the continents there has been a decisive increase in vocations, with the exception of Oceania, where the figures rose from 784 to 797 seminarians. Even Europe has seen an increase of 16.47% (from 23,915 to 27,853), resulting from the rebirth of Christianity in the East.
One of the most startling revelations is that Asia has approximately the same number of seminarians as both Latin America and Europe, despite the fact that only 4.5 percent of Asia's population is Catholic.
India has emerged as the country with the most vocations in the world, with currently around 10,000 seminarians. This number is higher than figures for such traditionally Catholic countries as Poland (6,954), Mexico (6,849) and Brazil (6,805).
Italian Catholics help rebuild Moscow Cathedral
Cardinal Biffi donates icon replica of Virgin of Saint Luke
On 5 May Bologna's Cardinal Giacomo Biffi presented a replica of the icon of the Virgin of Saint Luke to an official delegation of the Moscow patriarchy, headed by Archbishop Sergij Fomin. The original icon arrived in Bologna from Byzantium in 1160, in unknown circumstances.
Father Tommaso Toschi, delegate of the Archbishop in charge of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, said this donation "is a sign of friendship between the Church in Bologna and the Russian Orthodox Church which goes back to 1990." At that time, and in response to the Pope's call for Western churches to help their Eastern sisters after the fall of Communism, a contribution was made toward the reconstruction of the Moscow cathedral, destroyed by Stalin in 1931.
In 1997, the diocese of Bologna supported a campaign for the reconstruction of the cathedral, with the collaboration of other institutions. The total collected at that time was $55,000. "Last February, Alexei II invited us to visit him. On that occasion, I told him about the value of the image of the Virgin of Saint Luke and he asked for a copy," Father Toschi said.
Metropolitan Fomin expressed gratitude for the contribution toward the reconstruction of the cathedral, and said that "the arrival of the image in Moscow, at this time of war, will have great repercussions. We hope that relations between our peoples will help regain peace. If this happens, we shall be able to say this was the first miracle of the new icon."
Baptist University to become Catholic
Father Joseph Fessio's significant role
The Latin American campus of the Baptist University of Mobile, Alabama, will become "one of the best Catholic Universities" in Central America thanks to the financial help of the Catholic pizza mogul, Tom Monaghan, last May, according to a former Nicaraguan education minister.
The Latin American branch of the Baptist University, located in the Nicaraguan city of San Marcos, was due to close because of financial problems, but former Minister of Education, Humberto Belli, requested the help of Father Joseph Fessio SJ, director of Ignatius Press.
Father Fessio then contacted Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza restaurants, who decided to provide the million dollars requested by the Baptist owners of the University of Mobile, thus ensuring that the campus will not only keep functioning in San Marcos, but will become a Catholic university. Monaghan, who contributed millions of dollars towards the construction of the new cathedral in Managua, which had been destroyed by an earthquake during the 1970s, has also provided $400,000 to improve the campus. Belli, who will become the new rector, said that the campus "will turn into a model of a Catholic university and will be the best in the region."
Catholic World News
Religious orders' major challenge
Conclusions of Assembly of Union of Superiors General
The Union of Superiors General has released a document entitled New Vocations for a Revitalised Consecrated Life, the final text of their general assembly, held in Ariccia, Italy, in June.
Over the last 20 years, the number of female religious has decreased from 991,000 to 819,000. Male religious (excluding priests) have decreased in number from 76,000 in 1978 to 58,000 in 1997. The number of religious priests, which two decades ago was 158,000, has decreased to 140,000.
The assembly of superiors calls on religious communities to make an examination of conscience. "The crisis in vocations is not solely due to the lack of profound values in contemporary society, but also to the evident deterioration in the way of life in essential aspects of the consecrated life."
According to the superiors general, the solution requires "the creation of a 'vocational culture' through attention to families and other social institutions, in such a way that, little by little, society will come to appreciate the meaning and value of the consecrated life in its different expressions."
The most intense crisis in the religious life is being felt in Oceania and Europe. In America, it is also intense, but less acute. Asia and Africa are the hope for the future, with a constant increase in those consecrated to the religious life.
Priestly Fraternity of St Peter
Continuing progress in United States
Founded in 1988 with the approval of the Holy See, the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter celebrates only the traditional Latin Mass. Its progress has been particularly noteworthy in the United States, where it enjoys the support of a number of bishops - notably Bishop Timlin of Scranton (Pennsylvania).
Work on the Fraternity's second American seminary - dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe - is ahead of schedule. Located in Lincoln, Nebraska, the 100-room US$9 million seminary will be ready to accept its first residents before its opening date for the September 2000 semester. A magnificent Romanesque chapel, reminiscent of an 11th century Benedictine monastery, is included in the project.
The Fraternity's vocations director, Fr John Melnick, reports that he receives 9-25 letters each week from men considering a vocation to the priesthood with the Fraternity. He remarks: "We're not looking for vocations, they're looking for us." The Fraternity has about 130 seminarians worldwide including 56 at the American seminary in Scranton (of whom six are Australians). The Fraternity has meanwhile purchased two churches in Lincoln and Atlanta for the Latin Mass communities in those cities.
Future projects and plans include the establishing of a formal "transition program" for diocesan priests who want to join the Fraternity, establishing apostolates in three more States, establishing a girls' boarding school in western Canada, and setting up a quarterly magazine and speakers' bureau.
Most visited Catholic sanctuaries
Pontifical Council findings
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico, has been in 1998 the most visited sanctuary in the world. According to calculations offered late last May by the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, approximately 14 million pilgrims venerated the Patron of the American Continent in this sanctuary.
At some distance, with 7.5 million pilgrims, is the sanctuary of Saint Giovanni Rotondo, where the recently beatified Padre Pio of Pietrelcina lived for many years of his life. Third place is occupied by another Marian sanctuary in Latin America: The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida, where Brazilians venerate the Mother of God, receives almost 7.3 million visitors.
Czestochowa (Poland), Lourdes (France), Lujan (Argentina), Fatima (Portugal) and Padua (Italy), welcomed about five million pilgrims in 1998. Finally, Santiago of Compostela (Spain), Assisi and Loreto (Italy) received 4.5 million pilgrims.
Catholic Church in Russia
Latest priestly ordinations
The renewal of the Catholic Church in Russia after long years of Communist oppression gained strength with the ordination on 23 May of three new priests. These were the first ordinations in 82 years at Mary, Queen of Apostles Seminary in Saint Petersburg, presently the only seminary in the country. Two more seminarians will be ordained next year.
In 1991, Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow, Apostolic Administrator of European Russia, had only three priests to serve a territory of four million square kilometres. Because of this, he opened a theological school for laymen to train pastoral agents who would help with the spiritual care of Catholics spread over Russia.
In the first year of this work, five young men expressed an interest in the priesthood. The need for a seminary on Russian territory soon became evident. It was inaugurated in Moscow on 1 September 1993, with 12 students.
In 1995 the seminary moved to its present location in St Petersburg when the authorities returned the top floor of the historic seminary founded in 1877 and closed by Lenin in 1918. The rest of the building has not yet been returned, being used by a bank and several businesses.
Bishop Bernardo Antonini, rector of the seminary, told the Italian newspaper Avvenire that the new vocations come from both atheist and Orthodox families. Very few are cradle Catholics. Some of them served in the war in Afghanistan.
De facto unions not an alternative to marriage
Pope's address to Pontifical Council for the family
On 4 June Pope John Paul II received the participants of the 14th plenary session of the Pontifical Council for the Family who have been reflecting on the theme, "Paternity of God and Paternity in the Family."
In his speech, the Pope indicated that "in some countries it is sought to impose so-called 'de facto' unions upon society," and to "give juridical value to a desire that remains far distant from any kind of definitive union. With premises like these, how can we hope for truly responsible procreation?"
Forms of co-habitation between the sexes, he affirmed, do not constitute "an authentic juridical alternative to matrimony" while "so-called 'de facto' unions give evidence of a more or less grave lack of mutual commitment, a paradoxical desire to maintain intact the autonomy of one's own will within an alliance that should be relational." 'De facto' unions between homosexuals, he added, "represent a deplorable distortion of what should be the communion of love and life between man and woman in a reciprocal giving (which is) open to life."
Vatican Information Service
Beer advertisement that mocks confession
Boycott warning by Catholic Church
A controversial Australian beer advertisement has caused Catholic clergy to warn of a boycott to protest the mocking of the Sacrament of Confession.
A spokesman for Cardinal Edward Clancy of Sydney said many Catholics may exercise their consumer choices when deciding whether to buy Tooheys New Brand beer. The controversial television advertisement depicts a young man entering a confessional, confessing a sexual sin, and receiving from the priest the names of three women who had earlier confessed to extramarital sex. The commercial ends with the man going to a pub with his friends and ordering a round of beer as he seeks out the women.
Representatives of brewer Lion Nathan said the advertisement had been cleared by the advertising standards board.
"There's already been a response [to the advertisement]," said Father Brian Lucas, a spokesman for Cardinal Clancy. "Many people are now exercising their choices (against Tooheys) when it comes to the brand of beer they purchase."
Catholic World News