On the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis ordained nine priests of the Diocese of Rome in St. Peter's Basilica and reiterated the criterion of "service to the brethren" for those who consecrate their lives to God. Unfortunately, the number of seminarians in the world does not reflect an encouraging figure.
"We give thanks to the Lord because he continues to raise up in the Church people who, out of love for him, consecrate themselves to the proclamation of the Gospel and the service of their brothers and sisters". Pope Francis said this at the Regina Coeli on Good Shepherd Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter, when the "World Day of Prayer for Vocations" was also celebrated throughout the Church.
A true service
Shortly before, in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pontiff ordained nine new priests of the Diocese of Rome, of which he is Bishop. In his homily, he delved into this aspect of "service to the brethren" that corresponds to those who consecrate their lives to the Lord. Nothing to do with what can be defined as a "career", Pope Francis recalled. Rather, it is a "service, a service like that which God has done for his people".
We thank the Lord because he continues to raise up in the Church people who, out of love for him, consecrate themselves to the proclamation of the Gospel and the service of their brothers and sisters.Pope Francis
Thus, the Pope presented the "style" that these servants of the Gospel should assume: closeness, compassion, tenderness, without "closing their hearts to problems" and without being afraid to "carry their crosses", moving away from "vanity, from the pride of money".
In the Message written for the 58th Day of Prayer for Vocations, and dedicated to the figure of St. Joseph, in the Year in which the Church dedicates a special devotion to him, this aspect of service, emblematic of the life journey of the Spouse of Mary, also reappears.
So much so that "he lived in everything for others and never for himself. His attitude of "attentive and solicitous care" - writes the Holy Father - "is the sign of a successful vocation", and is "the witness of a life touched by the love of God".
And yet, at the statistical level, the figures coming in worldwide on priestly vocations are not encouraging. According to figures appearing in the 2019 Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, published by the Holy See at the end of March, there has been a drop of almost 2 percentage points compared to the previous year, from 115,880 to 114,058.
The variation is -2.4% across the Americas, reaching -3.8% in Europe, to -5.2% in Oceania. The only positive data comes from Africa, where the number of seminarians increased by about 500 between 2018 and 2019.
However, the continent with the largest number of seminarians is Asia (33,821), followed by America (30,664), Europe (15,888) and Oceania (964).
is the number of Catholic priests in the world.
Unfortunately, the number of "professed religious" is also decreasing, by -1.8% worldwide, due to the sharp contraction in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. In Africa the rate is +1.1% and 0.4% in Southeast Asia.
On the other hand, the population of "permanent deacons" is growing, with an increase of 1.5% over the previous figure, from 47,504 to 48,238 units. It should be noted that 97% of them reside in Europe. The number of priests has also increased slightly, from 414,065 to 414,336, as has the total number of Catholics, which has risen by 16 million (1.12%) to 17.7% of the world population (1,345 million).