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Spring 2001 Newsletter

"Contact the Cardinals and cc: Your Bishops Over Worldwide Priest Shortage," says FutureChurch Campaign

The surprise May 21-24 consistory of the College of Cardinals and the October synod of Bishops are important opportunities for Catholics worldwide who are concerned about the deepening priest shortage and its impact on the future of Catholic worship.

Reports from Church leaders in Europe, Asia, Australia, Central America, Canada and the U.S. tell of an impending crisis. (see below). Prominent churchman Cardinal Godfried Daneels of Belgium has said that unless an influx of new priests occurs in Europe, Catholics will be starved of the sacraments. Interviewed by the British weekly The Catholic Times (Reported in Catholic Trends May, 2000) he noted that in Belgium "we’ve reached a very low level. Its the same low level as in Holland, Switzerland, France and even Germany."

Recent statistics released by the Vatican give no cause for hope. The Annuario Pontificio 2001 revealed that from 1998 to 1999 Catholics worldwide increased by 16 million (1.6%), while the number of priests increased by only 383 (.09%). The number of seminarians increased very slightly (0.7% compared to the 1.6% increase of Catholics).

There are now 1.038 billion Catholics in the world but only 405,009 priests, many of whom are aged. In the U.S. there are more priests over 90 than under 30 according to a recent study by U.S.bishops. Vatican statistics also report that of the 3.86 million people working in ministry, 2.44 million are lay catechists. Presumably many of these would accept ordination were it open to them.

With news of the hastily called consistory, the time may be ripe to take action:

The March 3 issue of the respected British Catholic Journal The Tablet reports understanding "from a number of cardinals, that the extraordinary consistory will address the issue of how to increase communion within the Church -Vatican code for spreading decision-making powers among the bishops- and is likely to sent the agenda for the Bishops’ synod in October."

The power to open ordination to all the baptized to stem the priest shortage does not rest with local Bishops who have been weakened by a centralizing papacy and curial bureaucrats. Presently in the Church, the Cardinals have the most influence. especially as a new conclave nears.

Therefore the U.S. based FutureChurch has launched a "Contact the Cardinals and cc: your Bishops" campaign to request that availability of the Eucharist and other sacraments become a top priority in the May consistory, in the October synod of Bishops and into the next conclave if necessary.

They ask that Church leaders look again at the options of opening ordination to all those called to it by God and the people of God including the married and women so that the Eucharist (the Mass) remains at the center of Catholic worship.

FutureChurch is reaching out to other Catholic organizations and groups all over the world asking them to encourage their membership to make their voices heard on this important issue. Already, in the U.S. Call to Action, CORPUS, the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church and the Womenıs Ordination Conference have pledged their support. In addition to FutureChurchıs 4000 members and supporters, these groups have a combined membership of nearly 30,000 U.S. Catholics.

Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium 37 tells us that we "have the right, as do all Christians to receive in abundance.the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the assistance of the Word of God and the sacraments." Canon 212 (par 3) goes even further in informing us of our right indeed our duty "to make our views known on matters which concern the good of the Church."

We encourage grassroots Catholics to become educated about the issue. We ask them to write, fax or email letters of concern to the Cardinals of their country (for addresses click here) and send a copy to their local Bishops and the FutureChurch office.

Letters will be important even after the May 21 consistory since the Bishops will meet in October for an international synod, and the Cardinals will be influential into the next conclave.

Most Bishops are already only too aware of the problems as they struggle to staff parishes which risk going without the Eucharist because of the priest shortage.

Letters, faxes and emails to higher-ups in the Church hierarchy can provide outside support for what the Bishops already know from the inside. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done quickly.

Please take action, and do it today. Our right to the Eucharist and other sacraments is more important than the marital state or gender of the presider.

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