Wednesday, 28 April 2010

New Vatican Statistics on Catholics Worldwide

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, an increase of 11.54 percent. 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. As a percentage of the total population, European Catholics represented 26.8 percent in 2000 and 24.31 percent in 2008. In America and Oceania they have remained stable, and increased slightly in Asia.

The number of bishops in the world went up from 4541 in 2000 to 5002 in 2008, an increase of 10.15 percent.

The number of priests also increased slightly over this nine-year period, passing from 405,178 in 2000 to 409,166 in 2008, an overall rise of 0.98 percent. In Africa and Asia their numbers increased (respectively, by 33.1 percent and 23.8 percent), in the Americas they remained stable, while they fell by 7 percent in Europe and 4 percent in Oceania.

The number of diocesan priests increased by 3.1 percent, going from 265,781 in 2000 to 274,007 in 2008. By contrast, the number of regular priests showed a constant decline, down by 3.04 percent to 135,159 in 2008. 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. The Americas slightly increased its percentage to around 30 percent of the total.

Permanent deacons are the group that has seen the most increase over this time: from about 28,000 in 2000 to reach 37,000 in 2008, with a relative change of + 33.7%. Many are present in America (especially the North) with 64.6% of all deacons in the world and in Europe (33.1%). Permanent deacons are scarce in Africa and Asia, where all together they are a mere 1.5% of the global number.

Non-ordained religious numbered 55.057 in the year 2000 and 54,641 in 2008. Comparing this data by continent, Europe showed a strong decline (down by 16.57 percent), as did Oceania (22.06 percent), the Americas remained stable, while Asia and Africa grew (respectively, by 32 percent and 10.47 percent).

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.

Monday, 26 April 2010

A New Film on Saint Wilfrid The Apostle of Sussex

Mary's Dowry Productions presents a new film telling the life and missions of Saint Wilfrid: The Apostle of Sussex.

A fascinating and absorbing story set in Saxon England, Saint Wilfrid's life was one of devotion, courage and determination. Advisor to Kings and friend of Saints, this intriguing Saxon Bishop tells his story with a beautiful blend of Sacred Art, historic imagery, original footage, original music and beautiful narrative. As always, Mary's Dowry Productions provides the original filmed footage to accompany the narrative of the production.

Saint Wilfrid, a Saxon Bishop, whose whole life and mission was key to the development of the Christian Church in England, is an enjoyable and intriguing journey that includes great Saxon King Halls, Sussex shores, magnificent abbeys, Saxon peasants, baptisms, fishing, bringing reliquaries from Rome, suffering banishment from court, the planning and building of churches, preaching to the peoples of the Isle of Wight, and converting great rulers with the Gospel. Saint Wilfrid: Apostle of Sussex is an informative encounter with a Saint and Bishop from England's Catholic past.

The DVD is presented in widescreen and runs for 30 minutes - available worldwide in all Region formats.

Let Saint Wilfrid tell you his story.

More information, screenshots and trailers can be found at this link

To purchase this DVD simply follow the links on their website to their Online Shop.

The Mary's Dowry Productions Team

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Statement by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales

Below is the statement from the Bishops Conference which we be sent to all parishes in England and Wales this weekend:

Child abuse in the Catholic Church has been such a focus of public attention recently, that we, the Bishops of England and Wales, wish to address this issue directly and unambiguously.

Catholics are members of a single universal body. These terrible crimes, and the inadequate response by some church leaders, grieve us all.

Our first thoughts are for all who have suffered from the horror of these crimes, which inflict such severe and lasting wounds. They are uppermost in our prayer. The distress we feel at what has happened is nothing in comparison with the suffering of those who have been abused.

The criminal offences committed by some priests and religious are a profound scandal. They bring deep shame to the whole church. But shame is not enough. The abuse of children is a grievous sin against God. Therefore we focus not on shame but on our sorrow for these sins. They are the personal sins of only a very few. But we are bound together in the Body of Christ and, therefore, their sins touch us all.

We express our heartfelt apology and deep sorrow to those who have suffered abuse, those who have felt ignored, disbelieved or betrayed. We ask their pardon, and the pardon of God for these terrible deeds done in our midst. There can be no excuses.

Furthermore, we recognise the failings of some Bishops and Religious leaders in handling these matters. These, too, are aspects of this tragedy which we deeply regret and for which we apologise. The procedures now in place in our countries highlight what should have been done straightaway in the past. Full co-operation with statutory bodies is essential.

Now, we believe, is a time for deep prayer of reparation and atonement. We invite Catholics in England and Wales to make the four Fridays in May 2010 special days of prayer. Even when we are lost for words, we can place ourselves in silent prayer. We invite Catholics on these days to come before the Blessed Sacrament in our parishes to pray to God for healing, forgiveness and a renewed dedication. We pray for all who have suffered abuse; for those who mishandled these matters and added to the suffering of those affected. From this prayer we do not exclude those who have committed these sins of abuse. They have a journey of repentance and atonement to make.

We pray also for Pope Benedict, whose wise and courageous leadership is so important for the Church at this time.

In our dioceses we will continue to make every effort, working with our safeguarding commissions, to identify any further steps we can take, especially concerning the care of those who have suffered abuse, including anyone yet to come forward with their account of their painful and wounded past. We are committed to continuing the work of safeguarding, and are determined to maintain openness and transparency, in close co-operation with the statutory authorities in our countries. We thank the thousands who give generously of their time and effort to the Church’s safeguarding work in our parishes and dioceses.

We commit ourselves afresh to the service of children, young people and the vulnerable in our communities. We have faith and hope in the future. The Catholic Church abounds in people, both laity, religious and clergy, of great dedication, energy and generosity who serve in parishes, schools, youth ventures and the care of elderly people. We also thank them. The Holy Spirit guides us to sorrow and repentance, to a firm determination to better ways, and to a renewal of love and generosity towards all in need.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

World Day of Prayer for Priesthood and Consecrated Life

Fr Paul Turner, the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton Vocations Director writes:

In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday (25 April) Pope Benedict adopts the theme of “Witness Awakens Vocations.” He writes “the witness of those who have answered the Lord’s call to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life, awakens in others a desire to respond generously to Christ’s call.” This is a good time to value the witness of men and women who have ‘consecrated’ their lives for the mission of the church. Although there is an assumption that no one is being called to the religious or consecrated life I am fortunate to know that this is not true. The numbers are not what they were and maybe the presence of the ‘religious; is not so evident to most Catholics but our own diocese is blessed having a number of men and women called to the consecrated life.

Below is the story of one of them:
Bruno Clifton OP (pictured right) was solemnly professed as a Dominican on 16th September 2006 at Blackfriars in Oxford. Bruno’s vocation to religious life arose from a book called “The Catholic faith” by Richard Conrad OP. He was attracted to the friar’s dedication to the work preaching the gospel.. Having been to university Bruno appreciates the importance of answering the questions that people invariably have with regards to Christianity.

You can read aboutb this and other examples of vocation to the consecrated life in this next month's A&B News.

The forthcoming Invocation Prayer Festival ( at Oscott college in Birmingham (2nd – 4th July) is an ideal way for young adults to discover their calling from the example of the priests and religious who will be leading the event. As Pope Benedict says “To imitate Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, and to identify with him: this is the ideal of the consecrated life, a witness to the absolute primacy of God in human life.”

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A Dedicated Deacon

Below is an extract from an interview by Peter Burholt with one of the deacon's of the diocese, Gerard Irwin from St Paul's, Haywards Heath which will appear in full in next month's A&;B News:

Peter: How did the road to your diaconate happen?

Gerard: Twenty two years ago I was working in Liverpool and, when time allowed, I used to go to Mass at a church near my office. I got to know a lawyer at this church who was going through the diaconal formation process. Like the itch [to investigate the Priesthood] I mentioned earlier, it started me thinking.

I moved here and my parish priest, Martin Jakubas, helped greatly by talking me through the possibility of becoming a deacon. One day, in his inimitable way, he said “Do we need to do something about this?” First of all I thought I had been caught smoking behind the bicycle shed, as I did not know what he was talking about! But this was the real start for me.

The Church does not do “quick”. It took another year of discussing my calling and then there was another year for my application to be processed. As I have studied on and off all my life, the prospect of studying did not worry me. Christine came to all the study days with me, apart from 3 weekends away – but she was relieved not to have to do the essays, though!

What else do you do with your life?

My day job is as a principal consultant for a French consulting house, Sopra. I help companies resolve their business issues and, given these challenging times, my practice is quite busy.

You asked me about Faith in the workplace. This is important to me that what I do affects people’s lives. At various times I have been responsible payment for 1.7m pensioners each month and later for providing the support for people who were long term unemployed.

In the Catholic Encyclopaedia  it says of the deacon being close to his bishop, taking arduous tasks off his shoulders, and being the “natural intermediaries between celebrant and the people”. It also repeats the need to fulfil the role of looking after the sick and poor.

I guess it is much the same now. The early deacons became the bishops’ administrators, but nowadays we are more likely to support those in need in our parishes. I work very closely with my parish priest to try and share his ever growing work load.

In practical terms a deacon works with the parish priest, though the whole College of Deacons does get together with Bishop Kieran at least once a year.

People are puzzled about what a deacon can actually do in the Church.

We have quite a wide brief. Sometimes it is easier to say what we cannot do. As a deacon I can and do, Preach, Proclaim the Gospel, Conduct funerals, Preside at weddings, Lead morning and sometime evening prayer in the church, Baptise, and Assist at Mass. But most of the work is behind the scenes working with parishioners and groups, just making things happen.
But I reckon it is not what you do, but who you are. People relate to people, not “offices” and that’s where the work gets done.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Bishop Kieran Blesses New Presbytery in Peachaven

A member of the Catholic parish of Peachaven reports that:
Almost nine years ago the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Peacehaven was struck by tragedy with the death of the parish priest, Fr Patrick Emmanuel and the destruction of the presbytery through a fire. Since then the parish has worked hard to reconstruct itself and on the morning of Sunday 17th January 2010, as the sun blazed through the stained glass windows of the church, they rejoiced with Bishop Kieran on the final completion of the the new presbytery for their new priest Fr Tom Ryan.
For the full story read this month's A&B News.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

General Election: Serving the Common Good

The Bishops call for the common good to be put at the heart of the general election and Government

The Catholic Communications Network reports that: The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales are putting out a message encouraging all Catholics to use their vote in the forthcoming General Election and to seek parliamentary candidates who will serve the common good.

The short message complements ‘Choosing the Common Good’ - the Bishops’ recent document about Catholic Social Teaching. It sets out some of the considerations all voters should have in mind when making choices on how to vote, but clearly states that the Bishops are not advocating any particular political party as that is not their role.

“We depend on each other. And we need a Government that draws out what is best in all of us, and which aims to serve the common good. So the fundamental question we each need to ask ourselves in deciding who to vote for is not who will best serve me, but who will best serve the common good of all of us.”

The areas of focus pick on some of the themes explored in ‘Choosing the Common Good’: Valuing Life; Family; Migration; Supporting the development of the world’s poor; the environment; the importance of religious belief.

The document concludes:
“Our faith is at the heart of our lives. Religious belief is not just something private: it helps create a society that wants to see everyone flourish. It has a contribution to make and must be allowed to do so in accordance with its teachings.

“Whoever you decide to vote for, from whichever political party you decide to support, send back to Parliament someone who understands and will work for the common good.”

The general election message and ‘Choosing the Common Good’ are available on the Bishops’ Conference website:

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Vatican issues Guidelines on Sexual Abuse Allegations

On 12 April the Vatican website, under the section called "Focus", published a guide to understanding the procedures of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on sexual abuse allegations towards minors:

Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations
The applicable law is the Motu Proprio "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela" (MP SST) of 30 April 2001 together with the 1983 Code of Canon Law. This is an introductory guide which may be helpful to lay persons and non-canonists.

A: Preliminary Procedures
The local diocese investigates every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric.
If the allegation has a semblance of truth the case is referred to the CDF. The local bishop transmits all the necessary information to the CDF and expresses his opinion on the procedures to be followed and the measures to be adopted in the short and long term.

Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.

During the preliminary stage and until the case is concluded, the bishop may impose precautionary measures to safeguard the community, including the victims. Indeed, the local bishop always retains power to protect children by restricting the activities of any priest in his diocese. This is part of his ordinary authority, which he is encouraged to exercise to whatever extent is necessary to assure that children do not come to harm, and this power can be exercised at the bishop's discretion before, during and after any canonical proceeding.

B: Procedures authorized by the CDF
The CDF studies the case presented by the local bishop and also asks for supplementary information where necessary.
The CDF has a number of options:

B1 Penal Processes
The CDF may authorize the local bishop to conduct a judicial penal trial before a local Church tribunal. Any appeal in such cases would eventually be lodged to a tribunal of the CDF.

The CDF may authorize the local bishop to conduct an administrative penal process before a delegate of the local bishop assisted by two assessors. The accused priest is called to respond to the accusations and to review the evidence. The accused has a right to present recourse to the CDF against a decree condemning him to a canonical penalty. The decision of the Cardinals members of the CDF is final.

Should the cleric be judged guilty, both judicial and administrative penal processes can condemn a cleric to a number of canonical penalties, the most serious of which is dismissal from the clerical state. The question of damages can also be treated directly during these procedures.

B2 Cases referred directly to the Holy Father
In very grave cases where a civil criminal trial has found the cleric guilty of sexual abuse of minors or where the evidence is overwhelming, the CDF may choose to take the case directly to the Holy Father with the request that the Pope issue a decree of "ex officio" dismissal from the clerical state. There is no canonical remedy against such a papal decree.

The CDF also brings to the Holy Father requests by accused priests who, cognizant of their crimes, ask to be dispensed from the obligation of the priesthood and want to return to the lay state. The Holy Father grants these requests for the good of the Church ("pro bono Ecclesiae").

B3 Disciplinary Measures
In cases where the accused priest has admitted to his crimes and has accepted to live a life of prayer and penance, the CDF authorizes the local bishop to issue a decree prohibiting or restricting the public ministry of such a priest. Such decrees are imposed through a penal precept which would entail a canonical penalty for a violation of the conditions of the decree, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state. Administrative recourse to the CDF is possible against such decrees. The decision of the CDF is final.

C. Revision of MP SST
For some time the CDF has undertaken a revision of some of the articles of "Motu Proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis tutela", in order to update the said Motu Proprio of 2001 in the light of special faculties granted to the CDF by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The proposed modifications under discussion will not change the above-mentioned procedures.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Deportation of Nadia Arzane and Bashir Foris - Can you help?

Brighton Voices in Exile have emailed me to ask if people can take action to stop the deportation of Nadia Arzane and Bashir Foris, a married Iranian couple in their early 20s.

Nadia is an activist from Iran who supported the opposition party by making a stand against human right abuses. On a protest in July 2009, in the town of Bandar Abbas, she saw a person beaten to death by government agents. She handed out leaflets and CDs in her local area calling on people to vote against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A few days later, she returned home from work and witnessed her father being beaten and arrested because he would not hand over information about her. Her father spent two months in an Iranian prison where he was tortured. As a young Christian and human rights activist she has suffered prolonged persecution from the Iranian government and will be arrested and possibly executed if she is returned.

Nadia has shown immense courage and conviction in her Christian Faith and her belief in Human Rights. Her and her husband have been detained since their arrival in the UK and are currently being detained in Yarlswood Immigration Removal Centre.

Nadia and Bashir are under immense stress. Nadia's physical and mental health are a serious concern. Nadia she is terrified. She is 13 weeks pregnant and at the stage during which miscarriages are most common. She has not had a full psychological assessment as recommended by health professionals; She is showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is unable to eat or sleep. Without a full psychological assessment there is no way of knowing the full state of Nadia’s mental health, and how the stress of the imminent removal will affect the health of her unborn child. She is not receiving any treatment.

The home office have issued the couple with removal directions and a flight has been booked for them to return to Latvia on Wednesday 14th April, where it is likely they will be returned to Iran. Their solicitor has applied for an injunction to the High Court against their removal.

International organisations have reported that execution is common place in Iran for a range of crimes including acts of dissidence. Sexual violence by guards in women's prisons is widespread, as are other violent acts.

Human Rights Watch have publisised the case of Maryam Sabir, 21, who was arrested after attending a commemoration demonstration to mark the 40th day after the murder of Neda Solton- whose shooting dead during a demonstration shocked the world. Before she was released Sabir says she was raped four times by guards.

Mehdi Karroubi, Reformist Presidential Candidate stated that, "Some detained individuals stated that some authorities have raped detained women with such force that they have sustained injuries and tears to their reproductive system" (, 'Iran: Stop Covering up Sexual Asaults in Prisons').

Please call Sky Break (representatives of Air Baltic at Gatwick Airport) and Air Baltic to request that they do not except this vulnerable couple onto the flight. Contacting airlines is an effective ways of preventing deportation. The airline and its pilot make the final decision as to who flies on there planes, often pilots have refused to fly with deportees on board allowing time for further legal proceedings to be taken.

Flight number: BT652, 13:10 Wednesday 14th April, Gatwick Airport

Sky Breaks: Phone: 01293 555700. Address: Bath Road, Harmondsworth, West Drayton, UB7 0NA.
Air Baltic: Phones: +371 67006006, +370 700 55660, Monday- Friday: 07:00-22.00, Saturday- Sunday: 08:00-20:00

Friday, 9 April 2010

A Reflection on Child Abuse

I thought it would be good to share with you the reflections of one of our diocesan priests in his newsletter to parishioners about the current concerns about Child Abuse in the Church. He says:
"Last week a lady came up to me to ask me something which had been troubling her quite a bit – and I’m glad she did - because what she was asking about reflected my own inner disquiet. Quite simply, she was asking for a word about how to respond to non-Catholics about the issues of clergy abuse now in the newspapers and the TV news on a daily basis.

Of course in many ways we have grown used to the scandal within our church, but what many find alarming is the relentless revelations from the USA, from Ireland, and now Germany about the terrible abuse of young people in the hands of schools, and homes run by religious and parishes. Allegations that are even now threatening to embroil our Pope in a most uncomfortable way. If you are like me you will feel many emotions – among them anger and frustration at the betrayal of the gospel by the people we most relied on to be leaders and examples. I think it is worth saying that many clergy feel enormously betrayed by those priests and religious who have caused such harm to young lives and to the reputation of all priests and religious. In some places clergy no longer dress in clerical garb because of their shame and alarm – and in some cases because of the danger of retribution.

There is also the anger levelled at those in authority within the church who, because of a misguided desire to avoid the scandal that this abuse has caused, allowed perpetrators to continue abusing young people as they were moved around from place to place. This has done grave harm to the respect and authority of our bishops and to the church as a whole. People quite rightly expected, and continue to expect good leadership from their bishops. They expect the gospel to be applied in a fair and even handed way – which has to mean facing the truth about certain things and then acting appropriately.

I suspect that a great number of people are feeling very awkward about their own status as catholics. It’s as if we are all smeared with the taint of the abuse – “tarred with the same brush”. Making excuses such as the fact that the church is not the only place where paedophiles are active; that we have taken major steps to prevent anything like this from happening again; that as a percentage of the total number of clergy those who abuse are a tiny minority; that our bishops have been commended for the Safeguarding guidance and directives they have put in place – these all seem rather lame and to miss the point.

I think, personally that a corner has been turned now. Our bishop Kieran has been interviewed a number of times on TV and radio recently. He has given interviews to the newspapers and the striking thing about what he has said is that he recognises all the above. The reputation of the Church has been gravely damaged. Mistakes were made sometimes through naivety and sometimes in a delusional effort to protect the church’s reputation or the clergy’s. It will take generations to recover those whose faith in the institution has been damaged such that they no longer respect or wish to be associated with the Church. More revelations will come to light from differing parts of the world. People will rightly question the authority of the Church to teach on moral questions.

But Bishop Kieran has also said other things that are worth hearing too. He asserts quite rightly that the church isn’t the only place that this happens – its going on everywhere – in families, in schools, on the internet, in clubs and, of course, in places we can’t even think of. It’s not a religious issue per se but part of broken human nature that needs to be redeemed in all sorts of places and people. Secondly those who abuse do not look like abusers – they look like ‘normal’ human beings – respectable, perhaps smart and socially adept. Certainly they aren’t like the ‘dirty old man’ that our nightmares consist of. They can be women too as recent cases in Liverpool and Plymouth testify to. In fact, anywhere and anyone. One thing mentioned by some is that there is a media assault on the church by people keen to see it destroyed. Certainly some do have an agenda similar to this. But most of the time the media just tell a story – and this is a big story that’s not going to go away because that’s what we want.

This can cause us to despair. How can we trust anyone with our children? Where can they go that we can be absolutely confident will be safe?

Bishop Kieran has highlighted the key to this. The biggest crime perhaps is that victims were never believed. So we have to stop deference in this matter. We have to make sure that any allegations are properly and impartially investigated. In the Church’s case this means by external bodies. It also means, and this is very important, that we have to take sensible precautions to safeguard children and vulnerable people. Sometimes it can all seem a ‘bit over the top’ and undoubtedly puts some people off volunteering. But we have to put these feelings to one side and concentrate on doing things properly.

In the context of Holy Week this whole issue needs to be seen in the light of the gospel. We, as church, and perhaps especially as clergy, need to recognise the demand of humble service to all God’s people and the world. We need to shed the trappings of false authority that depends on positions of power and control, and follow the way of the cross more closely. In one sense we are suffering now for those individuals who abused or tried to cover up the abuse. So we need to seek the truth in charity and charity in truth as the Holy Father has just written. We need, perhaps above all, to see these difficult times as an opportunity for purification and renewal of a church more closely modelled on Christ’s sacrifice. We need to be penitent about the real damage done to lives by abuse but also hopeful in the sense that the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ our Lord is what holds all things together. It is by dying to the old self that we will be enabled to rise with Christ.

This is not the easter message I would have hoped to send you. But it is a timely one. I hope that you will use this easter to renew your faith in Christ, and his church which, broken and sinful as it is, is made whole and holy by the presence of the risen Christ within it. To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the message of eternal life."