VATICAN CITY, JUL 20, 1996 (VIS) - The latest edition of the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, with data up to December 31, 1994, has just been published. This annual volume is edited by the Central Statistics Office of the Church and, says the preface, "contains the most significant data on the life and activity of the Church in the world in 1994."
"The data," continues the preface, "have been obtained by an indirect survey, by sending a questionnaire to the chancery offices of ecclesiastical jurisdictions throughout the world." Due to "various difficulties met with by certain jurisdictions in their apostolate," the survey was conducted with those jurisdictions with which there are regular contacts, that is, 2,696 out of a total of 2,842.
Following is some of the salient data taken from the 1994 yearbook:
Earth's surface: 135,789,528 square kilometers
Catholics: 975,937,000 (17.4 percent)
Ecclesiastical Territories: 2,696
(Latin rite and Eastern rite)
An informative note on the 1994 Statistical Yearbook of the Church examines the dynamic of priestly vocations throughout the world between 1970 and 1994. It notes that after having fallen to a minimum in 1975, vocations have been progressively increasing, with variations registered during this period.
Between 1970 and 1994, the number of major seminarians changed a good deal. After hitting its lowest level in 1975, a constant increase was verified, reaching 105,075 in 1994.
According to the world geographical distribution, in Africa the number of major seminarians between 1970 and 1994 grew at a great pace, reaching an increase of 393.5 percent. In North America, there has been a continuous decrease, with a variation of -60.4 percent in these 25 years. In Central America, after a crisis that halted in 1975, a strong recovery began, reaching more that 165.1 percent in 1994. In South America there has been no crisis of vocations, and there has been a constant increase in the number of major seminarians, which in 1994 surpassed by 253.3 percent that of 1970.
In the Middle East there has been constant growth since 1985 and in Southeast Asia the number of seminarians has increased since 1974, reaching more that 152.5 percent in 1994 with respect to the minimum of 20 years earlier.
The number of seminarians in Europe grew between 1978 and 1987, and since then there has been a stable phase until 1994. All together, the period from 1978 to 1994 has seen an increase of 23.4 percent.
In Oceania, after hitting the lowest level in 1978, there have been a series of ups and downs in the following years and the number of seminarians in 1994 was even lower, by 32.8 percent, than that of 1970.
The note concludes by saying that from this analysis one can deduce that the global rate of 10.77 seminarians per 100,000 Catholics relative to 1994 is the result of totally different continental circumstances. The figures pass from a maximum of 25.57 in Southeast Asia to 16.65 in Africa, 10.89 in Oceania, 10.27 in Europe, 8.25 in North America, 7.21 in Central America and 6.53 in South America.
VATICAN CITY, JULY 20, 1996 (VIS) - The Holy Father nominated:
- Fr. Moses Costa, C.S.C., as bishop of Dinajpur (area 17,500, population 12,265,000, Catholics 31,500, priests 31, religious 112), Bangladesh. The bishop-elect was born in Toomilia, Bangladesh, in 1950 and was ordained a priest in 1981. Since 1995 he has been director of studies at Holy Cross in Dhaka.
- Msgr. Marian Golebiewski as bishop of Koszalin-Kolobrzeg (area 15,500, population 965,000, Catholics 863,000, priests 476, religious 425), Poland. The bishop-elect was born in Trzebuchow, Poland, in 1937 and was ordained a priest in 1962. He has been professor of Sacred Scripture at the Warsaw Theological Academy and at the diocesan seminary of Wloclawek, where he was later rector. Until now he has been canon of the cathedral.
The majority of seminarians nearing ordination as priests are not white, but black or Asian. In 1970, before the drop in vocations, 45.65 percent of priests were European, 18.78 percent were from the U.S., 5.33 percent were Africans and 14.55 percent were Asian.
By 1994, Europeans were only 28.85 percent and North Americans had shrunk to 5.8 percent, while Africans had risen to 16.4 percent and Asians to 23.18 percent of priests worldwide.
One the one hand, Vatican sources described these figures as positive: seminarians nearing priesthood in 1970 were only 72,991 worldwide, and in 1994 they were 105,075. In 1976 they had actually reached a low of 60,368.
But concern was also expressed about distribution of priests throughout the world: in Africa, Asia and Latin America, vocations are multiplying rapidly, while in Europe, the U.S. and Oceania they are decreasing significantly in proportion to the Catholic population.
The pontiff's visit will take him to northwestern Hungary to mark the 1,000th anniversary of a Benedictine monastery in Pannonhalma and to the western city of Gyoer to meet with Hungarian bishops.
Hungarian church officials had also invited Patriarch Alexy II of the Russian Orthodox church to Hungary. The proposed meeting was seen as a way of overcoming tensions over what the Orthodox Church sees as overzealous missionary work by Roman Catholics in Russia -- and possibly as an opportunity to plan a historic papal trip to Moscow.
The patriarch had proposed the date for a meeting with the pope, who will be in Hungary on Sept. 6 and 7, the MTI state news agency said.
But Pannonhalma Abbot Asztrik Varszegi and Gyoergy Nanovsky, Hungary's ambassador to Russia, said Friday that the Russian Orthodox Church leadership had decided Thursday to turn down the invitation.
Conservative Orthodox leaders feared that the pope was trying to extend Catholic influence over their church, Nanovsky said.
The trouble comes basically from different ways of translating and interpreting key words. For example, in the Jehovah's Witnesses' version ''is'' becomes ''means'': Christ says at the Last Supper ''this signifies my body'', instead of ''this is my body'', with weighty dogmatic implications.
Sources of the Religious Information Service (Sir) warned that willful manipulation of the original Greek text tended to deny the divine nature of Christ, which Jehovah's Witnesses tend to do anyway.
The issue is particularly crucial because Jehovah's Witnesses take their version of the Bible as literal truth, rather than as a metaphor.