Catholic Church: latest statistics
The Vatican Publishing House has recently released a new edition of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, comprising information on the main aspects of Catholic Church activity in various countries for the period 2000-2008.
Over these nine years, the Catholic presence in the world has grown from 1,045 million in 2000 to 1,166 million in 2008. Considering the statistics in detail, numbers in Africa grew by 33 percent, in Europe they remained generally stable (an increase of 1.17 percent), while in Asia they increased by 15.61 percent, in Oceania by 11.39 percent and in America by 10.93 percent.
The number of bishops in the world went up from 4541 in 2000 to 5002 in 2008 while the number of priests increased slightly from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008, an overall rise of about one percent. In Africa and Asia, however, their numbers increased significantly (respectively, by 33.1 percent and 23.8 percent), but fell by seven percent in Europe and four percent in Oceania.
Of the continents, only Europe showed a clear reduction in priests: in 2000 they represented 51 percent of the world total, in 2008 just 47 percent. On the other hand, Asia and Africa together represented 17.5 percent of the world total in 2000 and 21.9 percent in 2008.
Female religious are almost double the number of priests, and 14 times that of non-ordained male religious, but their numbers are falling, from 800,000 in 2000 to 740,000 in 2008. As for their geographical distribution, 41 percent reside in Europe, 27.47 percent in America, 21.77 percent in Asia and 1.28 percent in Oceania. The number of female religious has increased in the most dynamic continents: Africa (up by 21 percent) and Asia (up by 16 percent).
The Statistical Yearbook of the Church also includes information on the number of students of philosophy and theology in diocesan and religious seminaries. In global terms, their numbers increased from 110,583 in 2000 to more than 117,024 in 2008. In Africa and Asia their numbers went up, whereas Europe saw a reduction.
Vatican Information Service
Child abuse: Protestant bishops defend Church
Two leading African American Protestant bishops from St Louis have defended the Catholic Church in the face of a resurgence of child abuse claims.
The bishops are respectively president and vice-president of the Ecumenical Leadership Council, representing hundreds of predominantly African American churches in Missouri.
Noting the headlines about sexual misconduct and abuse by Catholic priests, they said those truly convicted of 'such atrocities' should at minimum no longer serve in any clerical capacity.
'However, while emotions are rightfully vested in anger, the membership of the Ecumenical Leadership Council would ask the public to remember that the Catholic Church has been a leader in relieving pain and suffering in the world, and in St Louis.
'Their worldwide generosity has all too frequently been the difference between a significant number of the world's poor going hungry and homeless, and having a warm meal and secure shelter.
'We believe that the misdeeds of a few should not be allowed to cast a shadow on the great deeds done daily by the priests and nuns of the Catholic Church.'
The two Protestant bishops noted that Catholic Charities had raised $82 million last year to help the less fortunate in St Louis and that the Catholic Archbishop of St Louis, Robert J. Carlson, has reached out to bridge racial divides through dialogue with organisations like the Ecumenical Leadership Council.
'We strongly support the healing that obviously must occur in the Catholic Church. We acknowledge the alleged abuses of imperfect priests; however, we also know that imperfection is a human condition to which all humans are susceptible.'
The two bishops said they looked forward to working with Archbishop Carlson and the Catholic clergy of St Louis to continue their missions of spiritual guidance and leadership for worshippers of their respective faiths.
Zenit News Agency
Benedict XVI: the Church's right to public expression
On 24 April in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the new ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See.
In his address, Benedict highlighted how 'human life and dignity are a precious resource to be defended and promoted resolutely, especially on the basis of natural law'.
In this regard, he said, 'it is worth pointing out that the Church, as an institution, has the right to express herself in public. ... She respects the right of everyone to think differently from herself, and would like to see her own right to expression respected. ... The Church, having the common good as her objective, wants nothing other than the freedom to be able to present this message, not imposing it on anyone, and respecting people's freedom of conscience'.
Referring then to Belgium's involvement in Europe, and to the fact that the Belgian Herman Van Rompuy was recently elected as first president of the European Council, Benedict noted how 'the art of consensus cannot be reduced to purely dialectic abilities, rather it must seek truth and goodness'.
This, he explained quoting his Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, is because 'without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalised society at difficult times like the present'.
Vatican Information Service
Church in US: 'marriage building' a priority
The Catholic Church in the United States has defined 'marriage building' as one of its priorities. In order to make this priority a reality, a group of Catholic leaders will gather to study what makes a parish a marriage- builder.
Hundreds of Catholic leaders are expected for a 23-26 June conference in Cincinnati, on 'Marriage- Building Parishes: Blueprints and Building Plans.'
Participants will 'learn ways to form our youth for responsible sexuality, better prepare couples for sacramental marriage, enrich and strengthen those who are married, provide marriage care for those in need, and heal the pain of divorce for both the spouses and the kids,' said Lorrie Gramer, conference chair of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers.
That association and two other national groups are working with the US Bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth to sponsor the event.
'So much can be done to strengthen marriage within the normal scope of parish life and ministry,' observed Richard McCord, director of the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. 'The resources, beginning with the witness of married couples themselves, just need to be called forth and utilised. The conference is an important step in this direction.'
Zenit News Agency
Support for Latin Mass in Germany
According to a survey by the French organisation Paix Liturgique, 44% of practising Catholics would regularly attend the traditional Latin Mass if Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio was implemented.
The survey found that only 5.9% of German Catholics attended Mass weekly, 4.1% monthly, 18.9% at Christmas and Easter and the remainder occasionally or never.
43.1% said they were aware of Benedict's Motu Proprio allowing for the general availability of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite and 50.6% said they would see it as 'normal' to allow for both the ordinary (Novus Ordo) and extraordinary forms to co-exist in parishes.
Asked whether they would attend the extraordinary form if it were available in their parish, of those who attend mass regularly (weekly and monthly), 25% said they would attend weekly, 19% once a month, and 40% occasionally.
The results of this survey are broadly similar to others Paix Liturgique has commissioned since 2001 in France and Italy.
Paix Liturgique Newsletter
Irish poll: large majority support abortion ban
The results of a survey of the Republic of Ireland, released in April, showed that 70 percent of those questioned support the present constitutional protection for the unborn, including the prohibition of abortion.
The survey, commissioned by the Pro-Life Campaign, asked respondents if they favour or oppose 'constitutional protection for the unborn that prohibits abortion but allows the continuation of the existing practice of intervention to save a mother's life in accordance with Irish medical ethics.'
Seventy percent supported the constitutional protections while only 13 percent opposed it. Another 16 percent did not know or had no opinion.
The Pro-Life Campaign's Dr. Berry Kiely said the poll distinguished between necessary medical interventions in pregnancy and induced abortion 'where the life of the unborn child is directly targeted.'
'This is a critical ethical distinction which abortion advocates constantly seek to blur,' she pointed out.
'Some abortion advocates claim that legalised abortion 'confronts the reality of crisis pregnancy.' However, this contention ignores the humanity of the unborn child throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy and the latest research highlighting the negative consequences of abortion for women.'
Catholic News Agency
Survey of this year's American ordinands
A survey of American seminarians who will be ordained this year has found that 31% were born outside the United States, with most coming from Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines, Poland and Vietnam.
Among the other findings of the survey:
* the average (mean) age of ordinands is 37; the median age of diocesan ordinands is 33;
* 10% are converts;
* 55% have more than two siblings;
* 49% attended a Catholic school, and 39% attended a Catholic college or university;
* 60% completed tertiary courses before entering the seminary; 92% held full-time jobs;
* 78% were encouraged by a priest to enter the seminary; few were influenced by vocational advertising;
* 19% attended a World Youth Day, and 8% attended a Franciscan University of Steubenville High School Youth Conference;
* 67% regularly prayed the Rosary before entering seminary; 65% regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration;
* the seminarians typically began to consider a priestly vocation when they were 18.
Catholic World News
Archives show Church excommunicated Nazis
An interreligious group trying to discover the facts regarding Pope Pius XII and his efforts to help Jews during World War II has announced the discovery of documents showing how the Church excommunicated Catholics who joined the Nazis.
The New-York based Pave the Way Foundation said that its representative Michael Hesemann had found a large series of documents from 1930 to 1933.
These indicate that any Catholic who joined the Nazi party, wore the uniform or flew the swastika flag would no longer be able to receive the sacraments.
'The documents clearly show an ideological war between the Catholic Church and National Socialism already in the pre-war decade,' Hesemann explained. 'The German bishops and the Roman Curia considered the Nazi doctrine not only as incompatible with the Christian faith, but also as hostile to the Church and dangerous to human morals, even more than Communism.'
Among the documents is a handwritten letter from a leading member of the Nazis, Hermann Goering, requesting a meeting with Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII), which was refused.
There are also documents asking for a removal of the excommunication, which was also denied.
Zenit News Agency