The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World


Statistics for Catholic Church 1978-2000

New Yearbook due for publication soon

With publication due shortly of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church - prepared by the Church's Central Statistics Office and containing information up to the year 2000 - a communique was made public in May illustrating variations on all continents between 1978, the year in which John Paul II began his pontificate, and 2000.

The number of baptised increased worldwide by 38 percent, from 757 million in 1978 to just over one billion, or 17.3 percent of mankind, in 2000. Catholics represent 62.8 percent of the population in the Americas, 40 percent in Europe and 2.9 percent in Asia.

From 1978 to 2000, the number of bishops increased from 3,714 to 4,541, a growth of almost 22 percent, while priests numbered 405,178 (265,781 diocesan and 139,397 religious) in 2000, a decrease of 3.75 percent compared with 1978. This reflects a reduction of 12.4 percent in the diocesan clergy and an increase of 1.26 percent in the religious.

In Europe, the decrease in numbers of diocesan priests has been constant, while that of religious clergy less pronounced. In Africa, Asia and the Americas, numbers of these have grown more or less consistently.

Religious brothers numbered 75,802 in 1978 and 55,057 in 2000. However, though numbers fell in Oceania, Europe and the Americas, they grew in Africa and Asia. As for female religious, there were almost a million in 1978 and 801,000 in 2000, representing a decline of 19 percent over 22 years.

The number of candidates to the priesthood grew worldwide from 64,000 in 1978 to 111,000 in 2000, with an uninterrupted upward trend over the entire period.

Vatican Information Service

Catholic Social Catechism due within a year

Cardinal Van Thuan's announcement

The Catholic Church will publish a compendium of its social doctrine within a year, according to an announcement last May by Cardinal Franois Xavier Nguyn Van Thuan, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

At a meeting organised by the Works Company, an institution directed by members of the Communion and Liberation movement, Cardinal Thuan explained that the initiative was entrusted to his Council by the Pope himself. The cardinal outlined the range of topics covered: "There is a discussion on the nature of Catholic social teaching, the human person, the family, the social order, the role of the state, democracy, work and salaries, unemployment, poverty and charity, the environment, the beauty of creation, environmental problems, the international community, immigration and foreign debt."

He also explained what it means to work for peace and justice, pointing to the beatitudes as a moral guide for those in politics. Blessed, he said, will be the politician who is responsible and honest, who works for the common good and is consistent and open to dialogue, who is committed to change with an evangelical perspective and who listens to the people, his conscience and God. Blessed too is that politician who "is not afraid of truth, and who does not allow himself to be conditioned by the media."

Zenit News Service

Closure of UK seminaries recommended

Low numbers of recruits to priesthood set to continue

Britain's bishops are considering halving the number of seminaries in England and Wales due to the underuse of the existing four colleges.

A Church-sponsored commission on the seminaries has concluded that St Cuthbert's College in Ushaw, near Durham, and St Mary's College in Oscott, near Birmingham, should merge to create one seminary for the north and Midlands.

Both seminaries were built to house hundreds of clerical students as well as junior seminarians. The current number of priests in training across England and Wales is just 48. St Cuthbert's was merged with St Joseph's College, Lancashire, in the 1970s.

The commission also recommended that St John's Seminary in Surrey and Allen Hall, Chelsea, southwest London, could merge to become the south of England's seminary. Welsh trainees could use either.

Msgr Andrew Summersgill, the general secretary to the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, told a news conference: "The numbers in the seminaries have fallen and the numbers are likely to remain at about that figure."

Catholic World News

Pope accepts Archbishop Weakland's resignation

Resignation "accelerated" due to allegation of sexual abuse

The Pope has accepted the resignation of Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland, one day after it was revealed he had paid a large sum of money to settle a sex-abuse lawsuit. He had led the Milwaukee Archdiocese since his appointment by Pope Paul VI in 1977.

At a "tearful and sombre prayer service" on 31 May, according to a New York Times report, Archbishop Weakland apologised to Catholics of his archdiocese "for the scandal that has occurred because of my sinfulness."

He said he accepted "full responsibility for the inappropriate nature" of his relationship with a man - Paul Marcoux - who accused the Archbishop of sexually assaulting him and then paying him US$450,000 from diocesan funds in an out-of court settlement.

Archbishop Weakland, who had already submitted his resignation, as required, upon reaching the age of 75, disclosed he had asked Rome to "accelerate" acceptance of that resignation in light of the new revelations.

In a series of interviews with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Marcoux detailed his relationship with Weakland. Marcoux said he was coming forward now to aid his own healing and because many American Catholic bishops - including Weakland - had urged victims of priest sex abuse to come forward. He also said he was considering writing a book about his experiences.

In a letter Weakland wrote to Marcoux in August 1980, and obtained by the Journal Sentinel, Weakland details an intense relationship with Marcoux, who was 32 at the time - Weakland being then 53. The archbishop speaks of his love for Marcoux and the need to renew his commitment to celibacy. After the first alleged episode, Marcoux said he continued to see Weakland and that there were "three or four other sexualised" encounters.

Thomas Groome calls for "reconstructed" priesthood

Links celibacy to "gay" US clergy

Thomas Groome, widely quoted in Australian Catholic educational circles as a catechetics expert, has recently called for a "reconstructed" Catholic priesthood.

In a report in the Boston Globe (19 May), the US theologian commented on the current sex abuse scandals, noting that in a communique from Rome following their meeting in April, the US cardinals and episcopal leaders had said that because "a link between pedophilia and celibacy cannot be scientifically maintained" they would remove priestly celibacy from the discussion.

Groome commented: "Those who hope for a systemic overhaul of priestly ministry know that when celibacy is taken off the table, the same surely follows for women's ordination."

He also suggested there could be a link between celibacy and a so-called "gaying" of the priesthood in the US: "Surely many good Catholic gay men, told by their Church that their orientation is 'intrinsically disordered' and that they are 'called to chastity' for life, say to themselves, 'If I must be celibate, why not be a priest?'"

However, "even if celibacy is not one of the root causes of the present scandal ... it is high time that we reconstruct the Catholic priesthood."

Apart from introducing optional celibacy, he said, the Church should also allow women priests and bishops: "The presence of women as priests and bishops would be an extraordinary gift to the life of the Catholic Church ... To ordain women would surely hasten the demise of clericalism - the antithesis to priesthood as servant leadership - and catalyse a renewed ministry of 'holy order'."

Others questions needing to be addressed, said Groome, were "lay participation in the oversight of the Church, the clandestine way bishops are selected [and] the inflated role of the Roman Curia".

Benedictine monastic tradition flourishes

Growth in contemplative vocations

While some older religious congregations still experience the crisis of vocations, the Church is witnessing a growth of new contemplative vocations, particularly in the Benedictine spirituality.

An article in the May issue of Vita Pastorale, a monthly magazine of the Pauline Family directed to Italian parish priests, reports: "Truly we are witnessing a monastic explosion of the Benedictine tradition; without exaggeration, we can speak of a kind of globalisation of the Benedictine charism."

The number of foundations, it noted, had increased during the whole 20th century, with 116 Benedictine foundations alone in the period between 1980 and 2000. It cites the example of a monastery in South Korea with over 200 Olivetian nuns.

To respond to this new demand, Vita Pastorale offers four suggestions: "Spiritual Exercises and retreats; the apostolate of prayer; communities of Christian life; spiritual support not only on the part of priests, and men and women religious, but also of trained laymen."

Of these, it says the "best" is spiritual direction or guidance: "It is an extremely important apostolate because without it, there are no priestly vocations, especially the most suitable for people who suffer the effects of secularisation."

Zenit News Service

Cardinal-Electors now number 124

Cardinals Gantin and Kim turn 80

Two cardinals - Bernardin Gantin and Stephen Kim Sou-hwan - celebrated their 80th birthdays on 8 May. This made them ineligible to vote in a papal conclave.

Cardinal Gantin, a former prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, is dean of the College of Cardinals - a distinction he will retain. Having worked closely with every Pontiff since Pius XII, he had often been seen as a potential Pope himself, and a representative of the rising strength of Catholicism in the Third World.

Born in Dahomey - now Benin - Cardinal Gantin became a bishop at the age of 34, and Archbishop of Cotonou four years later. In 1976 he was brought to Rome by Pope Paul VI to head the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, and elevated to the College of Cardinals.

As dean of the College of Cardinals, he would be responsible for convening a conclave upon the death of the Pope. However, because of his age he could not preside at that papal election. That role would fall to the second senior member of the College of Cardinals - at the moment, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Cardinal Kim, former Archbishop of Seoul, Korea, was ordained in 1951, filled several parish assignments and was consecrated a bishop in 1966. He became Archbishop of Seoul in 1966, and remained in that post until his retirement in 1998. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.

There are now 124 cardinals eligible to vote in a papal conclave. Of these, seven received their red hats from Paul VI. The remaining 117 - 94 percent of the voting cardinals - were appointed by Pope John Paul II.

Catholic World News

Neo-Catechumenate Way

Statutes await Vatican approval

For well over a year, the leadership of the Neo-Catechumenate Way has been working towards the approval of statutes that would allow for formal Vatican recognition.

The group, founded by the Spanish layman Kiki Arguello in 1967, has spread to over 100 countries and attracted priests and seminarians as well as lay faithful.

In order to gain Vatican approval, the final statutes must be passed by three dicasteries: the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the Clergy, and for Divine Worship.

In April 2001, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the statutes for the Neo-Catechumenate Way posed a "delicate" problem, regarding the relations between priests and laity.

Questions about the status of priests involve two different issues. One is the relationship between the movement and the hierarchy of the Church. The other involves the responsibilities of priest-members of the movement: from whom should they take their orders?

Catholic World News

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