Number of Priests on Rise in Latin America

Region Faces Challenges Regarding Vocations

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BOGOTA, Colombia, JULY 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The number of priests in Latin America and the Caribbean increased from 2000 to 2005, though the situation of vocations faces various challenges.

A team within the Latin American bishops' council collected and analyzed the vocational statistics from 22 countries for the five-year period.

Overall, there was an increase of 11.93% in the number of diocesan priests (from 37,884 to 42,405) and a slight decrease in the number of religious priests (from 24,186 to 23,945).

During those years, for every 10 priests that were ordained, four priests died or left the priesthood. In the 22 countries studied, 1,080 priests left the ministry between 2000 and 2005. Only in Belize and Puerto Rico did no priest leave.

Nicaragua and Guatemala reflect the highest rates of growth in the number of diocesan priests.

The number of women religious increased from 126,287 in 2000 to 127,439 in 2005, implying a small increase of 0.91%.

There is no country which reflects only growth or lack of growth. However, Cuba, for example, had increased numbers in every category except for religious seminarians, and Argentina decreased in all its numbers except in the total of diocesan priests.

Brazil, Mexico and Colombia are the countries with the highest number of ordinations.

The authors of the study alerted against reading too much into the numbers. "In each case, one would have to look at the social, political, economic, cultural and religious factors that relate to the vocational statistics," they wrote. "Other influencing factors have to do with the experience of the local Church, as for example, the fact that a religious congregation moves its centers of formation from one country to another, which increases or decreases the number of seminarians in each one. A quantitative study is not sufficient."

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On the Net:

The full Spanish-language report: www.celam.org/observa/docs/VOCACIONES.pdf