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Vatican: Numbers of Priests Fall
Bad Times for the Catholic Church
Andre Hillenbrand (NumberOne)     Print Article 
  Published 2006-05-03 16:20 (KST)   
On Sunday the Vatican announced that the worldwide number of priests has dropped by approximately 3.5 percent, from 420,971 in 1978 to 405,891 in 2004.

Sunday Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
©2006 NOBLE,inc.
According to the Vatican's figures, a dramatic decrease has taken place in Europe where there are now 20 percent fewer priests than a quarter of a century ago. In Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, the number of priests declined by 14 percent.

The Vatican doesn't provide any detailed numbers for the U.S., but a study by a research center on the Catholic Church affiliated with Georgetown University shows a decrease of 26 percent during the past 25 years.

This reflects the ongoing problems of the Catholic Church in the world's most technologically advanced countries.

Experts say the reasons for the drop are complex, but the ongoing secularization of the developed world and a growing culture that devalues celibacy are among them.

Some critics even point out that in times when there is a high unemployment rate, as it has been in most parts of Europe in the past years, there should usually be an increase in the number of priests as people look for secure jobs. But the number of Catholic churchgoers has been decreasing steadily in Europe.

Unlike the Protestant Church, the Catholic Church cannot point to big recent successes like the boom of mega-churches in the U.S.

However the news is not all bad for the Catholic Church -- it is growing in Africa and Asia. According to the Vatican, the number of priests in Africa rose by nearly 85 percent. Asia also showed a huge increase of 74 percent.

In the past 25 years, the world saw a strong head of the Catholic Church in Pope John Paul II. New Pope Benedict XVI seems to have less authority and political influence. This could prove to motivate even fewer people to become priests or visit churches in the coming years.

The decrease has taken place in a period in which the world population has increased by more than 30 percent.

- Vatican: Numbers of Priests Fall, by Andre Hillenbrand 

©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Andre Hillenbrand

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