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Personal/Theological Notebook--Down and out

Woof. I just slept for over 24 hours, more-or-less. This infection from the surgical site keeps coming back every 10 days or two weeks, and was getting worse all through the day yesterday. I finally crashed by around 6 or 7pm, and other than a few half-hour gaps--including a lovely call from Kate and daughter Sophia up in British Columbia--I slept until hearing my VCR turn off tonight at 8 after recording Smallville. I still feel pretty crappy, but it feels good to simply move my muscles after that long being relatively still. And I gotta do my taxes tonight, finally.

News still coming in from Rome, keeping things interesting until the rest of the world's attention gets revved-up on Monday:

Edit: The first article is particularly interesting because John Allen describes to us the two clergy who have been selected to speak to the Cardinals on the state of the Church, immediately before the Conclave voting begins. Whether or not this means that the two will set the tone of the conclave is uncertain, but nevertheless they have the chance to influence the direction of the discussion as the voting begins, which makes their selection very interesting to those watching the Vatican closely and playing the "guess-the-pope" game. More modestly, the choice of these men--with their specialties--may indicate the current course of the College of Cardinals' thinking.

Two conclave preachers are open, ecumenical


Both stress simplicity, humility

By John L. Allen Jr.
Rome

Everyone these days is reading tea leaves as to which way the cardinals might be tending in the election of the next pope, and as part of that inexact science, here’s one interesting bit of data: the two clerics tapped by the cardinals to present meditations to them before they vote are open, ecumenically minded men who emphasize simplicity and humility rather than worldly power or theological discipline.

That might be some kind of indication, albeit indirect, about the sort of pope the cardinals may want.

Fr. Rainero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household, will deliver his meditation tomorrow morning during the General Congregation, while Cardinal Tomáš Špidlík, a former professor at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, will speak on Monday morning just before the conclave opens.

Cantalamessa, 70, is an Italian member of the Capuchin Franciscans, who has been the official preacher for the papal household since 1979. He’s a native of Piceno, Italy, and was ordained a priest in 1958. He served in the 1970s as director of the department of religious sciences at the Catholic University of Milan, then resigned in 1979 to deliver lectures, conferences and retreats on a full-time basis. It was just weeks after that decision that Cantalamessa was informed of his appointment as the pope’s preacher.

“That might have been the first mistake the pope made,” he later joked.

Serving as the pope’s preacher has been a privilege of the Capuchin order since 1743. Formally, Cantalamessa’s responsibilities including preaching sermons for the papal household during Advent and Lent, as well as preaching on Good Friday in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Cantalamessa is know for his good humor; he once explained that the first time he spoke in St. Peter’s Basilica, he had not counted on the echoes, and had to pause to let them ring out before moving on. His sermon went on longer than planned, making the pope’s master of ceremonies visibly impatient. At one stage he pointed at his watch. Cantalamessa saw the pope smiling, and later asked him what he thought. He quoted John Paul’s reaction: “When a man of God is speaking, we shouldn’t be looking at our watches!”

Cantalamessa, whose name in Italian means “sing the Mass,” is part of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church, a broad movement that emphasizes the “gifts of the spirits” as described in the New Testament, including miracles, great passion for the faith, and speaking in tongues. He was “baptized in the spirit” in New Jersey, after attending a charismatic conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

Yet Cantalamessa is not simply a fiery, emotional preacher. He is also seen as a gifted scholar, especially with regard to the early fathers of the church, and the sacrament of the Eucharist. One spiritual expert in Rome compared Cantalamessa’s style to that of St. Augustine, based on his use of typology and analogy to make spiritual points.

One Capuchin said that Cantalamessa doesn’t think much about church politics, but in general would tend to hold center-left positions on many issues, and every now and then “one can see him gently trying to push the envelope in his sermons.”

For example, his Good Friday sermon in St. Peter’s Basilica in 2002 seemed to strike a somewhat different tone on religious pluralism than Dominus Iesus, the 2001 document from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, warning that non-Christians are in a “gravely deficient position,” and urging greater missionary efforts.

While acknowledging that one must avoid relativism, or the attitude that one religion is as good as another, Cantalamessa gently suggested in 2002 that conversion of heart is a more profound objective than conversion of creed. It is more important to help people in their walk with God, he suggested, than to sell them on a particular brand name in the religious marketplace.

“It is more important that men and women become holy,” Cantalamessa said, standing in the center of a magnificent basilica erected to celebrate the earthly might of Catholicism and the papacy, “than that they know the name of the one Savior.”

Cantalamessa knew, of course, that Ratzinger would be in the front row for his sermon that night.

Špidlík, 87, a Jesuit, is likewise known for his ecumenical openness, in this case especially toward the Orthodox churches of the East. Made a cardinal in October 2003, well after he had turned 80, Špidlík received the honor as a sign of Pope John Paul’s personal affection as well as his esteem for the Eastern churches, which are Špidlík’s special passion.

Špidlík was born in what is today the Czech Republic in 1917. He wanted to study philosophy, but after the Nazi occupation he was assigned to work on a railroad. He entered the Jesuits in 1940, and in 1946 went to Maastricht in the Netherlands for theological studies. He arrived in Rome in 1951 to work in Vatican Radio, and has remained in the city ever since. He developed a reputation as a gifted professor at the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Gregorian, and was invited in 1995 to deliver the annual Lenten retreat for the pope and officials of the Roman Curia.

Špidlík’s sermons and spiritual meditations are typically studded with references to the Eastern fathers. In the run-up to the Jubilee Year in 2002, for example, he preached a mini-retreat for the Roman Curia in which he referred to the Eucharist as the “pharmacy of God,” building on Eastern images of the Eucharist as a sort of medicine for the sick soul. He is also known as a simple, unpretentious man; Jesuit sources said that when he has come to deliver meditations at the order’s headquarters, he has often preached from notes scrawled on scraps of recycled paper.

Špidlík was a contributor to a couple of John Paul II’s best-known ecumenical overtures. In that 1995 retreat, for example, he encouraged the pope to forge ahead with his encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, which appeared on May 25, 1995. In it, John Paul invited other Christian bodies into a conversation about reform of the papacy so that it would be more acceptable ecumenically, while sacrificing nothing of its essence.

Špidlík was also a chief source of theological inspiration behind the redesign of the Redemptoris Mater chapel in the Apostolic Palace, refashioned at the pope’s request in 1996 to express the idea of Christianity “breathing with both lungs,” East and West. (The College of Cardinals gave the pope a gift of cash for his 50th anniversary as a priest, and this was how he chose to spend it). The chapel incorporates iconography from both Latin and Orthodox Christianity in a rather daring modern style, marking a dramatic break from the traditional design that generally characterizes papal chapels.

For whatever it’s worth, therefore, the two “outsiders” who will have the most direct access to the cardinals in this pre-conclave period are men who can be expected to present a simple, evangelical and ecumenical vision. While these will by no means be campaign speeches, the tone and vision may nevertheless have some impact on the imaginations of the cardinals heading into the conclave – with, at least potentially, very surprising results.


Vatican II is latest topic
Curia officials weigh in on late pope's
commitment to council reforms


By Stacy Meichtry
Vatican City

The question of whether John Paul II’s papacy advanced the reforms laid out by the Second Vatican Council has long been a hotly debated topic in contemporary Catholicism. Critics of John Paul II often characterize his papacy as a centralizing force that turned back the clock on church reform by strengthening the control of the Roman Curia over local dioceses and national bishops conferences. With less than a week remaining before the start of the next conclave, high-ranking curial officials have begun weighing in on the subjectg.

Before an audience of curial officials, Wednesday, the number two official in the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, celebrated a Memorial Mass for John Paul II, noting the pontiff’s efforts to secure a place for Vatican II in the future of the church.

John Paul II “traced the guidelines of the third Christian millennium, indicating the Second Vatican Council as a ‘sure compass’ to orient the church’s path in the new millennium,” Sandri said, citing Novo Millennio Ineunte, an apostolic letter published in 2001.

In that document, the pope displayed an inclination to rein in Curial authority and boost collegiality—a position that surprised many Catholics.

"Much has been done since the Second Vatican Council for the reform of the Roman curia, the organization of synods and the functioning of episcopal conferences," the pope wrote in paragraph 44. "But there is certainly much more to be done, in order to realize all the potential of these instruments of communion, which are especially appropriate today in view of the need to respond promptly and effectively to the issues which the church must face in these rapidly changing times."

John Paul also called on officials to reflect on the "careerism, distrust and jealousy" in the life of the church.

Earlier Wednesday, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and dean of the College of Cardinals, characterized John Paul’s efforts to expand Roman Catholicism’s global presence as a compliment to the directives laid out in Lumen Gentium, a document known as the Second Vatican Council’s constitution.

“John Paul II has led the church for more than 26 years, making clear that (the church) is like--as the Second Vatican Council recalled--both ‘the sign and the instrument of the intimate union with God and of the unity of all of mankind,’” Ratzinger said, citing Lumen Gentium.

Ratzinger, who was speaking before the Holy See diplomatic corps, added that John Paul “led (the church) into the third millennium, inviting Christians to bring Christ to the world and calling all men of good will to react with generosity, peace, solidarity and sharing.”

Liberal observers have frequently characterized Vatican II reforms as a call for collegiality—a code word for decentralization of Vatican power. Neither Ratzinger nor Sandri made any mention of collegiality in their addresses. Prior to a self-imposed media blackout that took effect Saturday, many cardinals voting in the next conclave have expressed concern over how collegiality should be interpreted.

As the Vatican’s top theological watchdog, Ratzinger has developed a reputation as a centralizing force in church governance. That reputation heavily contrasts the role he played at the first session of the Second Vatican Council in 1963. At that time, Ratzinger described the emergence of "horizontal Catholicity" as one of the council’s most important achievements, in which "the curia found a force to reckon with and a real partner in discussion."

Italian newspapers, meanwhile, are reporting that support for a Ratzinger papacy has begun to swell. Citing unnamed sources, Corriere della Sera of Milan reported that at least 40 cardinals are going to support Ratzinger in the next conclave. La Repubblica of Rome gave an estimate of fifty supporters. To be elected pope, Ratzinger needs 77 votes for a two-thirds majority.

In a statement Wednesday Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said cardinals continued to “exchange ideas on the situation of the Church and of the world” without offering any details.


Win a couple, lose a couple



By Joan Chittister, OSB
Rome

Fathers have favorite sayings that grate on the nerves of anyone under 40 like welted thistles, harmless looking but hard to shake. Most of them, eventually, slip into disuse. After the age of 40, though, what little remains of them in memory has a way of getting collected into a new category called "wisdom."

I am operating off one of my father's sayings right now, in fact, the final assessment of which has yet to be determined.

"Win a couple, lose a couple," he would sigh every time the road of life took another unexpected turn. Here, or at least now, I have decided this could be an insight that deserves fresh consideration.

Little is done in a clear, straight line in the Italian culture. Nothing happens when you think it will happen. Nothing comes when you order it. Nothing gets fixed by the time you need it. New directives are announced suddenly and without warning: the store is closed though it says it's open; the meeting place has been changed from one place to another; the event is on that date, not this one. Little by little, a feeling of personal proficiency begins to slip slowly away.

On the other hand, though you lose a sense of control in a climate like this, you can also gain a sense of calm. Life becomes something to be lived rather than something to be managed.

So, with the world press waiting with pencils poised, the announcement that the cardinals will not be giving public interviews in the period between the papal funeral and the conclave was not unusual. It was, however, a blow to the whole notion of public dialogue and information.

There are some clear benefits to the move away from public discussion of church issues at the present time.

In the first place, the electors gain personal privacy during what should be a time of serious reflection.

In the second place, they avoid the kind of public scrutiny of prominent cardinals that worldwide coverage automatically brings.

Most of all, perhaps, they are defended against the likelihood of any cardinal's saying some ecclesiastically indefensible thing.

But there are serious losses to the arrangement, as well.

The fact that the public can no longer count on open interviews with cardinals from around the world to help them understand how the conclave may define the serious issues facing the church at a time like this is, unarguably, a major loss. Reflection groups, academic seminars, formation programs, parish study groups, religious everywhere are denied the opportunity to consider these same ideas at a moment when a universal church is living in a segmented world and a segmented world is trying to be a universal church.

The inability to mull over the various theological leanings of those leaders of the church who will select the next pope is the loss of a major teaching moment. The vision of church that will color the election will affect the whole church and needs to be shared in order to be understood.

The lack of interlocutors who can ask the kind of questions that come from the ground up in the church is a troublesome factor. Questions alert people to the major streams of thought flowing through the entire church at a time like this. Otherwise, the cardinals themselves may be left blind to the concerns around them and unconscious of its broader needs.

Finally, the sense of being locked out of the process entirely can only distance the church, which Vatican II called "the people of God," from a sense of being part of it. We are, after all, electing a pope for the whole church not simply for the cardinals.

Oh, some reporters, I'm sure, who have personal ties to various cardinals will manage to run into one or two of them on the street and wrest an idea from them -- on the grounds, of course, that its "off the record."

This morning's New York Times carries an article by Robert F. Worth, In Jeans or veils, Iraqi women are split on new political power, detailing the passionate involvement of Iraqi women in the present government processes there. Reading that story leads observers watching this church election to wonder: Without any hope for someone to speak their concerns publicly, how will the rest of the Catholic church -- women, for instance -- be able to participate?

Don't bother to answer: We know.

So is "Win a couple, lose a couple" the ultimate philosophical attitude at a time like this? Only, I think, if what is to be gained overrides what is lost. Now there's the real question.


Papal Vote Is Subject to Campaigning


Apr 13, 3:57 PM (ET)

By ARTHUR MAX

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Albeit on a small scale, the days before the conclave that will choose Pope John Paul II's successor have the hallmarks of any other election: campaigning, newspaper leaks and support groups.

The cardinals themselves have vowed silence on all matters related to the conclave, and have asked reporters to leave them in peace to contemplate their heavy task.

Nonetheless, television cameras track the cardinals' daily pre-conclave meeting, and reporters occasionally throw them questions as they stride past - which are routinely ignored.

Once the conclave begins Monday, the 115 prelates permitted to cast ballots will be restricted to the grounds of the Vatican city-state and will be cut off from all contact with outside influences. Televisions, telephones and mobile communications are removed.

Speculation about how they will vote filled the Italian and international press even before John Paul was buried. But on Wednesday, two Italian papers carried what appeared to be the first leaks from the cardinals' inner circle.

Citing sources, Corriere della Sera, the highly regarded Milan daily, said at least 40 cardinals have voiced some backing for German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during the daily meetings.

Another newspaper, La Repubblica, a widely read Rome paper, put the number of possible Ratzinger backers at 50, without identifying a source for the estimate.

The newspapers also reported the blocs opposed to Ratzinger have not united around a single name, suggesting a series of ballots may be needed before the leading contenders emerge.

The reports could not be independently verified. But a staff member for a European cardinal, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, expressed serious doubts the cardinals are making such clear declarations at this stage.

Meanwhile, two young Belgians tried to inject a campaign flavor into the papal deliberations outside the Vatican in St. Peter's Square, touting their countryman, Cardinal Godfried Danneels. They held aloft a banner reading "Godfried for Pope," and distributed leaflets with his photograph.

"We want him for the new pope, the new papa, yes," said a man who identified himself only as Dave. "That's why we came from Belgium over here, to promote a little bit Godfried. Because he is a modern way of thinking and certainly because he want women in the church. It's very important."

Vatican police escorted the two men off the square.

The cardinals are not supposed to vote in geographic blocs, nor is it considered seemly to campaign openly. Ballots are cast in secret and burned, and no one ever knows exactly how the voting goes, though it's widely believed a candidate's country of origin plays a large role.

So many pilgrims from Latin America are outside the Vatican that they could almost be classified as a lobby group - if only they could reach the electors. Whether in a soft Peruvian accent or a sharp Buenos Aires tone, the answer is the same: The next pope will be Latin American.

"I have no doubt. I expect a Latin American," said Patricia Lastiri. a 45-year-old Argentine working in the Italian city of Turin. "Latin America needs a push, and a pope could provide it."

Latin America now has 40 percent of the world's Catholics, and is home to 21 cardinals eligible to vote - although one is too ill to attend.

The Italian cardinals form the biggest group from a single country, with 20 in the conclave. Italians controlled the papacy for 455 years until the archbishop of Krakow broke their stranglehold and became John Paul II.

Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, interviewed on RAI radio, was asked if he thought the cardinals might have the situation in the Middle East in mind when they vote.

"You know the cardinals can't talk about the conclave," Sfeir said with a laugh. "But we hope the Holy Spirit sends us a new pope who understands the world and the importance of the Middle East."


Over-80 cardinals still have role to play in choosing next pope


By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When the conclave begins April 18, 66 cardinals will not be allowed into the Sistine Chapel to take part in the voting process that chooses the next pope.

Because of reforms enacted by Pope Paul VI in 1970, cardinals who are age 80 or over by the time the conclave starts are excluded from the closed-door proceedings.

"I missed the cut by a few strokes, as they say in the golfing world," said retired Australian Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy, who turned 80 last July.

"It would have been a special occasion," to have been part of the conclave, "but you turn 80 and, there you go," he told Catholic News Service April 13 by phone from Australia.

But just because the octo- and nonagenarians of the College of Cardinals will not get a chance to step up to the plate and vote for the next pope, it does not mean they are not part of the ballgame.

The over-80 cardinals can be part of the preconclave meetings called general congregations. These are daily meetings in which the College of Cardinals prepares for the conclave and handles church business that must be attended to between popes.

The meetings give all cardinals the chance to speak up about the different issues under discussion. The older, more experienced cardinals may even be sought out to offer advice, opinions or thoughts about what would be best for the future of the church.

"Even though (the over-80s) aren't directly influencing the conclave, they do represent the church at large, and they can give others their insights based on their long experience," said Cardinal Cahal Daly, retired archbishop of Armagh, Northern Ireland.

The gatherings are important as well for the elder cardinals, who, being retired, do not have an active episcopate.

"They are hungry for information and views and for sharing people's experience about the church," Cardinal Daly told CNS in a telephone interview from Armagh.

"These meetings talk about the state of the church worldwide" and trigger ideas that would promote "the welfare of the church we all love," he said.

Cardinal Daly, 87, said his doctors advised him not to travel to Rome for health reasons.

"There's a certain sadness that I will not be there, but at this age one has acquired a certain realism that one cannot do what one could do 20 years ago," he said.

Msgr. Charles Burns, a Scottish historian and retired official of the Vatican Archives, said setting an age limit on who can attend a conclave "was not meant to punish" elder members.

Pope Paul instituted the age restrictions "out of regard for the older" cardinals, "to take the burden off of them" having to make the long trip to Rome, said Msgr. Burns.

Cardinal Cassidy, who said he planned to fly from Australia to Rome April 14, said it was "fair to the older men to let them be free to come and take part or not; they are not obliged," as the cardinal-electors are, to get to Rome.

He said even though at 80 he was "in good health and could go (into a conclave) if I had to," he would not favor changing the age restrictions for voting members.

He said too many old or infirm electors "could give a very unpleasant view with cameras showing people being carried up steps" to get into a conclave.

"It might make people wonder, 'Are these the people who will choose the next pope?'" he said.

But just because someone turns 80 "doesn't mean their 'sell-by' date has expired," said a Vatican expert who asked that his name not be used.

Msgr. Burns added, "The cardinal-electors could choose an octogenarian to be pope; he wouldn't last 26 years, but it does show (the over-80s) can't just be cast aside."

Ambrogio Piazzoni, vice prefect of the Vatican Library, said having a ceiling on the voting age actually serves a more practical purpose.

He said having a precise date for cutting off a cardinal's status as elector helps the pope maintain at all times a consistent number of voters for his successor.

"If the church knows that say, by 2010, 20 cardinals will have turned 80 and are no longer eligible to vote, then the pope will know ahead of time and will start preparing to elevate 20 more new cardinals," to take their place, he told CNS.

Otherwise, with no age restrictions, "you wait for a cardinal to die before you can replace him," he said.

By "not knowing when they'll die," a pope would risk having unexpected losses in the number of cardinal-electors and long periods of time before they were replaced, he said.

The age limit "therefore is very wise," Piazzoni said, because it keeps conclave numbers steady and predictable and voters relatively young.

Also, if there were no age limit, "the conclave today would be completely different," said Piazzoni.

For example, since 120 is the maximum number of cardinals allowed to vote in a conclave, No. 121 in age, U.S. Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York, would be squeezed out of the proceedings along with the 61 other cardinals younger than he is. With the current age restrictions, 117 cardinals are under 80 and eligible to vote.


Catholic Church Prays for More Priests


Apr 13, 2:42 PM (ET)

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) - Patrick Donnelly thought he might like to be a teacher, or maybe a chef. Then the Roman Catholic priesthood captured his imagination - an increasingly rare event in this former bastion of the faith.

In much of Europe and North America, there aren't enough Patrick Donnellys anymore. The winds of social change and sex abuse scandals have made the priesthood - with its lifetime commitment and mandatory celibacy - an unpopular career.

While the number of Catholics jumped to more than 1 billion around the globe during John Paul II's 26-year papacy, the number of new priests didn't keep pace. Reversing the decline among American and European men will be a major challenge for the next pope.

"I know many people think I'm facing a lonely life ... a hard life," said Donnelly, 25, a student at St. Patrick's College, the only seminary still running in the Republic of Ireland. Seven others closed from 1993 to 2002. "But I'm happy with my choice and people respect that. I have a love of God, and I want to share that love."

The Vatican says the church had about 405,450 priests worldwide in 2003, a 3.7 percent drop from 1978, the year John Paul took charge. But in the United States and Europe - which accounts today for nearly half of the total - numbers have fallen about 20 percent over the period.

While recruitment to the priesthood is thriving in Africa, Latin America and Asia, it's nearly fallen off the map in Ireland, which for generations was a leading exporter of priests. The average age of priests here is nearly 60.

"It's a significant problem," said the Rev. Des Hillery, director of St. Patrick's College, a 210-year-old seminary in the bustling market town of Maynooth, west of Dublin. "I don't think it's a crisis, and it doesn't have to be a crisis. ... But who knows in 10 years' time. Nobody knows what's going to happen."

The seminary had about 600 students annually in the 1960s. When Hillery arrived a decade ago it had 220. Today there's 60, and less than two-thirds are expected to stay the seven-year course. The archdiocese of Dublin has more than 1 million Catholics - and graduated a single priest last year, and none at all this year.

The Rev. Kevin Doran, a Dublin priest who directs a network of recruiters called the European Vocations Service, says while some parts of Europe produce large numbers of priests - notably Poland and Malta - "much of Europe qualifies as mission territory."

Doran and seminary directors across Europe say there's no easy fix to luring young men to the priesthood. They're divided about whether dropping celibacy is part of the answer.

"The culture we live in has become highly sexualized. Many people believe it can be very difficult to be fulfilled if you don't have an active sex life," Doran said.

He cited an opinion poll of Irish priests last October that found 57 percent favored dropping the requirement. He said some men rule out entering seminary because of the celibacy rule, while others drop out midway because of it.

But Doran said he remains skeptical that ending celibacy would strengthen the priesthood, which must focus on the needs of a community, not one's own family.

"In a mature, integrated human being it should be possible that the affection and care which normally goes into a marriage can go into the pastoral care of the community," Doran said.

Others say the priesthood is shrinking in Europe because today's young Catholic men are products of a more selfish age and increasingly loathe to make any long-term commitments in their late teens and early 20s.

"I don't think that the fact that they cannot marry plays the principal role. Everyone tells me that it's because they are scared," said the Rev. Charles Bonnet, superior at the Saint Irenee Seminary in Lyon, France. "This lifetime commitment plays a bigger role in their decision than does the fact of having to remain celibate."

France in the mid-1970s became the first predominantly Catholic country in Europe to suffer a collapse in seminarian numbers. A generation ago the country produced about 800 new priests annually, but today manages just 100, Bonnet said.

In Spain, the number of seminarians has declined to 1,524 this year, a 24 percent drop from 1990. Officials cite materialism and alienation from faith as bigger factors than celibacy.

"The problem is attracting people to Christian life," said Juan Miguel Prim, the rector of a seminary in a Madrid suburb. "These days, a lot of young people have no religious experience and see the church as something very distant."

In Ireland, recruitment has collapsed since the mid-1990s, when the Irish economy took off on the back of high-tech investment - and the church's image fell amid sex scandals.

In 1992, a bishop in Galway was exposed as the father of a Connecticut teenager, whose support he'd been secretly paying from the collection plate. In 1994, the Irish government fell apart after admitting it failed to extradite a pedophile priest wanted in Northern Ireland on criminal charges.

The floodgates since have opened for more than 3,000 civil claims and criminal cases involving allegations of sexual and physical abuse dating to the 1940s, when Ireland was impoverished and the church ran schools, workhouses and orphanages.

"Obviously the scandals, the child abuse and the poor response to it hit hard. But this Celtic Tiger economy of ours hit just as hard," said the Rev. Joseph Tynan, a parish priest in County Tipperary who is director of vocations in a western Irish diocese. "Vocations never thrive in an affluent society. There are too many other choices, opportunities and temptations."

Tynan graduated from Tipperary's seminary in 1980 with 25 classmates, but the seminary closed in 2002 after failing to attract a single new candidate. Today, just two of the diocese's 90 priests are under 30, according to Tynan, who said the church may need to make celibacy optional.

"There should be room for married clergy," said Tynan, who noted that even "John Paul II acknowledged that celibacy is a church rule rather than a divinely instituted rule."

For Donnelly, the aspirant priest, campus life is a reminder of the less-traveled path he's taking. The seminary is surrounded by a 6,000-student university and Maynooth pubs full of coeds doing what coeds do.

"You do see couples holding hands and going off to do things together, and you do find yourself thinking: I'd like to have that," Donnelly said. "I will miss not being able to have children - Santy (Santa Claus), the tooth fairy, the first day of school.

"But sacrifice is supposed to be hard. And I see the sense of the celibacy rule. I'm really supposed to be wedded to God, and the parish is my family."

"And I'm still going to make it to the pub," he added with a smile, "because that's where the people are. A good priest must be with his people."

---

Associated Press writers Mary MacCarthy in Paris, Geir Moulson in Madrid and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.


Catholic Women Still Press for Ordination


Apr 13, 2:17 PM (ET)

By RACHEL ZOLL

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Despite a 26-year papacy that shut down talk of changing the all-male priesthood, progressive Catholics are convinced that the ongoing clergy shortage and rising number of female lay leaders in American churches will eventually create pressure for the Vatican to ordain women.

Until then, many women activists hope to build their influence with appointments to higher-ranking positions in dioceses, Catholic universities and even the Vatican.

"I basically think the next generation will see the ordination of women," said Lisa Sowle Cahill, a theologian at Boston College and past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. "That change will not emanate from the top, but from the grass roots or local churches which the Vatican will then recognize."

Catholics who support this view say they are speaking mainly about trends in North American and European churches. In the United States, at the end of Pope John Paul II's pontificate, more lay people than clergy were working full-time in American parishes and many of those lay leaders were women. They served, for example, as Eucharistic ministers, who distribute Holy Communion in places where there is no priest. In Europe, the push for women's ordination is supported by the Catholic reform group We Are Church and others.

Advocates are aware that women in parts of the world where Catholicism is growing fastest - Africa and Latin America - have dramatically different concerns and may not think about becoming priests. Poverty, domestic violence, education and health are more pressing issues for Third World Catholic women, many of whom adhere to a very conservative view of faith and embrace traditional roles for men and women.

Also, no one expects the next pope to change course from John Paul, who unequivocally backed a men-only priesthood.

However, in churches in the United States, many progressives believe numbers and time are on their side. Most religion instructors are women, and more women are becoming diocesan chancellors, canon lawyers and theologians. The two top lay people that U.S. bishops appointed to help them respond to the clergy sex abuse crisis were women: Illinois Justice Anne Burke led the National Review Board, a watchdog panel the bishops set up, and Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI agent, was the first director of the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection.

Whether any of these gains translates into power over the long term is in dispute, since men remain the ultimate authorities in the church. But the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America, who has written extensively about the structure of the American church, said the new appointments for women are a step toward even broader roles for them in church.

"Most of the cases I see when a woman has a job, it's not a real powerful position," he said. "On the other hand, she sat at the table. When the bishop met with his cabinet she was there."

For more traditional Catholics like Pia de Solenni, talk of gaining equality by changing the priesthood is off the mark. Solenni, a moral theologian who worked at the Vatican and studied at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, said progressives failed to acknowledge what John Paul did for women.

Last year, he appointed a nun to the No. 3 post in the congregation that governs religious orders worldwide, the highest position ever held by a woman in the Vatican. The same year, he appointed Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard University law professor, to the highest advisory position held by a woman in the church, leading a panel on social policy.

Solenni credited the pope with trying to expand the public discussion about women's needs from just reproductive issues to access to health care and poverty. In fact, she pointed to the greater role women are playing in church life to refute the progressive argument that the priesthood - and Catholic teaching on it - should be changed.

"So few women in the big picture feel a deep desire to be in the priesthood," Solenni said.

But Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, former editor of the progressive Catholic magazine Commonweal, said individual appointments to Vatican congregations do not translate into equality for women in the church.

She said many women see the church as a sexist organization, with a "deeply patriarchal culture" that rejects input from lay people. As one example, she pointed to Vatican opposition to gender neutral language in English translations of the Bible and liturgical texts.

She said a more glaring example of women's exclusion was now on display before the world. Next Monday, 115 men will enter the conclave in Rome to choose the future leader of the church.

"At this very moment and for the next two weeks, men the average age of 68 or 69 are making critically important decisions for the church in the future," she said. "This is not a body that is consulting anyone."


Ratzinger Said Gaining Papal Elector Favor



Apr 13, 11:29 AM (ET)

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Support for German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger appears to be building ahead of the conclave to select a new pope, Italian newspapers reported Wednesday.

Corriere della Sera, citing anonymous sources, said at least 40 cardinals have voiced some backing for the conservative Ratzinger during daily meetings before the conclave opens Monday with an expected 115 cardinals.

Another newspaper, La Repubblica, put the number of possible Ratzinger backers at 50, without identifying a source for the estimate.

The reports could not be independently verified. But a staff member for a European cardinal, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, expressed serious doubts that cardinals are making such clear declarations at this stage.

The cardinals have agreed not to talk to the media until after the conclave, the Vatican said. The pre-conclave meetings are held in private.

The suggestions of mounting support for the Vatican-based Ratzinger would still be shy of the votes needed: a two-thirds majority, or 77 votes.

Ratzinger, who leads a powerful Vatican office that oversees and enforces church doctrine, has been mentioned as a possible contender because of his close ties to Pope John Paul II. But Ratzinger will turn 78 on Saturday, which has led to speculation he could face challenges from cardinals who want a younger pontiff.

The newspapers also reported that the blocs opposed to Ratzinger have not united around a single name - suggesting a series of ballots may be needed before the leading contenders emerge. In October 1978, the College of Cardinals voted eight times over three days before selecting the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

The Italian cardinals - the biggest national group with 20 in the conclave - could favor Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, the archbishop of Milan and a frequently mentioned papal prospect.

But hopes among Latin American Catholics run high that their region could claim the papacy for the first time. Leading candidates appear to include Cardinal Claudo Hummes, 70, of Brazil and Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, 62, of Honduras.


Some Figures of World's Priests, Catholics


Apr 13, 6:54 PM (ET)

By The Associated Press

The number of priests in the world declined by nearly 3.7 percent from 1978 to 2003, the last year that figures were available, while the number of Roman Catholics worldwide increased by 44 percent, according to the Vatican statistics office.

Africa experienced the biggest percentage increases in priests and Catholics. The number of African priests during John Paul II's papacy rose by nearly 80 percent, and the number of African Catholics rose 162 percent. The African population as a whole also nearly doubled during that time, helping account for the gains.

There were about 201,000 ordinations of new priests during the quarter-century of John Paul's papacy, with Europe registering 40 percent of the total, followed by North and South America 30 percent, Asia 17 percent and Africa 12 percent.

NUMBER OF PRIESTS:

WORLD:

-420,971 in 1978

-405,450 in 2003

(down 3.7 percent)

EUROPE:

-250,498 in 1978

-201,854 in 2003

(down 19.4 percent)

AMERICAS:

-120,271 in 1978

-121,501 in 2003

(up 1 percent)

ASIA:

-27,700 in 1978

-46,800 in 2003

(up 68.9 percent)

AFRICA:

-16,926 in 1978

-30,419 in 2003

(up 79.7 percent)

OCEANIA:

-5,576 in 1978

-4,876 in 2003

(down 12.6 percent)

---

PRIESTS IN AMERICAS:

UNITED STATES:

-57,951 in 1978

-46,835 in 2003

(down 19.2 percent)

LATIN AMERICA/MEXICO/CARIBBEAN:

-49,857 in 1978

-65,430 in 2003

(up 31.2 percent)

---

CATHOLICS:

WORLD:

-756.5 million in 1978

-1.1 billion in 2003

(up 43.5 percent)

AMERICAS:

-366.6 million in 1978

-541 million in 2003

(up 47.6 percent)

EUROPE:

-266.4 million in 1978

-279.7 million in 2003

(up 5 percent)

AFRICA:

-54.8 million in 1978

-143.7 million in 2003

(up 162.3 percent)

ASIA:

-63.2 million in 1978

-112.7 million in 2003

(up 78.3 percent)

OCEANIA:

-5.6 million in 1978

-8.5 million in 2003

(up 51.6 percent)

---

CATHOLICS IN AMERICAS:

UNITED STATES:

-48.3 million in 1978

-66.3 million in 2003

(up 37.3 percent)

LATIN AMERICA/MEXICO/CARIBBEAN:

-306 million in 1978

-416.4 million in 2003

(up 36.1 percent)


Cardinal Calls for Return to Christianity


Apr 13, 6:59 PM (ET)

By DAVID McHUGH

BERLIN (AP) - The dean of the College of Cardinals that will choose the next pope published a new book Wednesday calling on Europe to return to its Christian roots and condemning gay marriage, divorce and the possibility of human cloning.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's book, published in German by the Herder publishing house under the title "Values in a Time of Upheaval," says Europe's Christian heritage is the key to respect for human dignity and to the continent's survival as a civilization.

"Europe needs a new - certainly skeptical and humble - acceptance of itself, if it wants to survive," the German-born Ratzinger wrote, according to excepts published in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. "The ever more passionately demanded multiculturalism is often above all a renunciation of what is one's own, a fleeing from what is one's own."

He said people can respect the faith and culture of others only when they remain true to their own, "only when what is holy, God, is not alien to us ourselves."

European integration as represented by the European Union has become a mostly economic project, he wrote, "with far-reaching exclusion of the spiritual foundations of such a society."

Ratzinger, who has published a number of other books, served as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 until the April 2 death of Pope John Paul II. In that role he was the church's guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy.

The book sharply criticizes secular trends that contradict Catholic teaching about marriage and reproduction.

"Marriage and family are essential for European identity," he wrote.

The possibility of human cloning and what he calls "genetic manipulation" represent to him "the quiet wasting away of human dignity."

As dean of the College of Cardinals, he will open the conclave of 115 members beginning Monday to choose a new pope. He has been mentioned as a potential choice for pope himself.

A rigorously conservative guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy, Ratzinger, 77, is considered one of the front-runners among Vatican experts who believe the cardinals will want an elderly, likely short-tenure, pontiff after John Paul II's 26-year run.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that at least 40 cardinals have voiced some backing for Ratzinger. Another newspaper, La Repubblica, put the number of possible Ratzinger backers at 50.

The reports could not be independently verified. The cardinals have agreed not to talk to the media until after the conclave, and the pre-conclave meetings are private. To become pope, a candidate needs a two-thirds majority, or 77 votes.
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