Priest and seminarian numbers rising worldwide
Figures from latest Vatican yearbook
The latest Vatican yearbook was released on 9 April, with statistics covering aspects of the Catholic Church's life.
On the topic of priests and seminarians, it revealed that the number of priests around the world increased slightly, with seminarians increasing at a greater rate.
The world's largest priest population is still found in Europe, with 52 percent of the total. But its percentage continues to decline, with by far the highest death rate because of its ageing clergy. Africa and Asia have very low death rates as a result of dramatic increases in new ordinations.
Overall, the number of priests worldwide increased by 383 over the past year. Over the last six years, the number of diocesan priests has increased by 27 percent in Africa, 16 percent in Asia and by four percent in the Americas. In Europe the number has declined by about four percent and in Oceania it remains steady.
The yearbook showed that the number of seminarians worldwide increased by 0.7 percent over the previous year - although the world's Catholic population increased by 1.6 percent at the same time.
Chile bishop praises new palliative care law
"Clear alternative" to euthanasia for terminally ill
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa of Santiago, president of the Chilean bishops' conference, congratulated Chile's House of Representatives for its decision to quickly approve a law on palliative care for the terminally ill.
The law proposed by the National Association of the Relatives of the Terminally Ill creates a special budget to provide free palliative health assistance to the terminally ill.
"The unanimous approval [of the law] is a clear sign that our country still believes in the value of life," said Cardinal Errazuriz. "Palliative care is the clear alternative to those who believe that euthanasia is the alternative to terminal illness."
The Cardinal also praised "the decisive intervention of the Relatives of the Terminally Ill, because they have shown which is the key factor: the care and concern of the loved ones around the person in need."
The president of the congressional health committee, Representative Carlos Olivares, asked the Government for quick approval of the bill, because "it is in the interest of all Chileans, and not just for a certain group."
Catholic World News
Ugandan Cardinal calls for rejection of abortion pill
Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala of Kampala has called on Christians to reject the abortifacient "morning- after" pill being introduced by the Ugandan Government.
The Cardinal said in his Easter homily that the pill violated the Fifth Commandment because it killed an unborn child. "What the Ministry of Health gave to the women of Uganda on that day [March 8] was this pill which gives them the liberty to terminate human life in its most defenceless form. This is a lifestyle of contradiction. How can you condemn killing yet you allow mothers to kill a life conceived after sexual intercourse, or condemn adultery yet you want to legalise prostitution?"
Cardinal Wamala said that while society has seen changes that have improved the economic, social, political, and religious aspects of the world, Christians should stick to living a lifestyle like that led by Jesus Christ. "There is a change in transport, communication, improvement in science and technology and all these changes that modernity has brought should be embraced by Christians."
But, he said, modern society has its shortfalls, too. "Mothers today give birth to children and abandon them. It is true Christians are part of the community here on earth and should therefore enjoy the same rights like other human beings." However, he said, "we should reject a lifestyle that is not compatible with the way Christ lived."
Catholic World News
Charles de Foucauld's cause advances
Holy See officially recognises his heroic virtues
The decree officially recognising Charles de Foucauld's heroic virtues was read in the Vatican last April, putting the French contemplative and missionary a step closer to beatification. A miracle attributed to de Foucauld's intercession is now needed to include him on the list of the Church's blessed.
"The 'Little Brother of Jesus' took humility, poverty and the charity of Christ to the Tuaregs of the Sahara, presenting himself as a universal brother of Christians, Jews and Muslims," said Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, as he presented John Paul II with the conclusion of the Church's investigation to verify de Foucauld's heroic virtues.
Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) was born in France, lost the faith when young and entered the army in 1876. He left the latter in 1882 to explore Morocco. His expedition was a scientific success, bringing him the gold medal of the Geographic Society. Success did not calm his spirit, however, and, at 28, he underwent a strong conversion experience.
Following a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he gave serious consideration to entering the Trappist Monastery of Our Lady of the Snows in France. However, he decided to go to Syria, in search of a more austere life.
He travelled to Nazareth, where he worked for three years as a gardener in the Poor Clares' convent. It was here that he recognised his calling to the priesthood. He decided to return to the Sahara to begin, simultaneously, the life of a hermit and missionary. He resided first in Beni- Abbes, and later lived among the Tuaregs in Tamanrasset.
Sharing the Tuaregs' life, he learned their language, translated their poetry and published an illustrated dictionary. Shortly after, he was moved to found a religious family, centred on the Gospel, the Eucharist and the apostolic life. He died on 1 December 1916, victim of a rifle bullet during a rebel skirmish in Hoggar. Today there are ten religious congregations and nine associations of spiritual life inspired in his charism.
Zenit News Agency
Only one-third of British believe in Resurrection
Results of recent national poll
Just one-third of the British population still believes in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, according to a national poll published in April.
The survey was commissioned for the Fortean Times, which calls itself "the journal of strange phenomena." A sample of 1,000 people from all backgrounds were telephoned in March and asked if they thought "Jesus literally rose from the dead exactly as described in the Bible" or if "there could have been another explanation."
The survey found that while a small percentage of the population went to church over Easter, 33 percent of Britons accept the central tenet of Christianity.
Women are more devout than men, according to the findings, with 37 percent believing in the Resurrection compared with 29 percent of men. Wales emerged as the most Christian region with 43 percent of people saying they believe Christ rose from the dead. A fifth said they did not believe in Christ's resurrection at all and 48 percent said they thought there could have been another explanation.
Among the younger age group (16-24), 56 percent thought there was another explanation for Christ rising from the dead while 23 percent believed in the Biblical account. Among those aged 65 and over, 44 percent believed in the Easter story and 37 percent thought there might be an alternative theory.
Catholic World News
Argentine Archbishop attacks birth-control law
Catholics have the right to disobey
Archbishop Estanislao Karlic, President of the Argentine bishops' conference, has said that Argentinians do not have to obey a new birth control law approved by the House of Representatives and now waiting for approval by the Senate.
The new law forces public hospitals and the Social Security agency to provide non-permanent birth control to all women, including minors without their parents' consent.
"Laws must be in accordance with the well-being of the human person, that is the key condition for a law to be respected," said Archbishop Karlic after the congress approved the law on sex and reproductive health. "If the law goes directly against true values then it is not a law, since an unjust law just ceases to exist," said the Archbishop.
Archbishop Karlic said that "any proposed law that affects the family as an institution will have a negative effect on society, even if it is intended to achieve what is believed to be a short- term good.
"The role of parents over their children is a basic human right that cannot be subverted without grave consequences," the Archbishop said. He was not calling for a revolt, but "for the natural disobedience paid to a law that is no such thing."
Catholic World News
Permanent deacons for Perth Archdiocese
Archbishop Hickey's announcement
On 19 April, Archbishop Barry Hickey announced plans for establishment of the permanent diaconate in the Perth Archdiocese at a Council of Priests meeting. In a statement released to The Record, he said: "I pray that this new initiative may herald a new surge of energy in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ."
Permanent deacons are men, married or single, who have been ordained deacons but who do not proceed to the ordained priesthood. Archbishop Hickey said that with the expansion of the Archdiocese, deacons could share in the ministerial workload of priests and bishops in all three of the traditional duties proper to Holy Orders - preaching, sanctifying and administration, and particularly in works of charity.
"Candidates for the Diaconate," he said, "would be chosen from worthy men, married or single. Once in Holy Orders it will not be possible to marry, or marry again in the case of widowers." A special panel would assess the suitability of candidates, looking for "qualities of faith, orthodoxy, love for the Church, apostolic spirit, charity, pastoral sense, and ability to acquire theological and pastoral knowledge and skills." Candidates would need to be financially independent and able to work part-time.
A three-year course is being developed for applicants which would "cover Theology, Sacramental Spirituality, Homiletics, Canon Law (especially about marriage law), Pastoral Theology and Practice, and other areas important for the ministry.
Archbishop Hickey said examples of the areas in which deacons could find a role included the preparation and celebration of weddings and baptisms, in funerals, preaching, formation, prayer groups, evangelisation, in country parishes, and as chaplains to state schools, universities and spiritual groups."
Latest from Toowoomba Diocese
Catholic Education Office Reflection Day
The Catholic Education Office of the Queensland Diocese of Toowoomba organised a five-hour Reflection Day on 26 April to be run by Susan Seaton on the theme "Christ: The Pattern that Connects."
In a memorandum to parish priests and catechists, the CEO noted that Susan Seaton's "special interests" covered "the area of spirituality and the re-definition of beliefs so as to engage in life-styles and work practices which will lead to a more life-giving and sustainable future."
To whet the appetites of those interested, the CEO provided the following overview: "The story, that we search for, can only be heard with a creative imagination that perceives with the eye of wholeness, seeking out the faces of mystery, scientific credibility, mutually supportive concepts, the spiritual traditions of the planet, and the beauty and wonder of Christ: the pattern that connects."
The memorandum exhorted would-be participants: "As we embrace our life and move on, we will discover how necessary it is to transcend and include as the past gives fullness to the future [sic]."
The day itself commenced with a meditation "Sacred Circles of Communion" and included consideration of "Reconciliation" with an exploration of "what this might mean with regard to reconciliation with the land, reconciliation with the past and reconciliation with the present."