French Catholic church campaigns for more priests

April 21, 2010
A pilgrim prays during a ceremony lead by Pope Benedict XVI following an Eucharistic Procession in Lourdes at La Prairie in Lourdes, France on September 14, 2008.

A pilgrim prays in Lourdes, France on September 14, 2008/Jean-Philippe Arles

France’s Catholic church has unfurled a public campaign for more priests to ease a shortage amid a crisis of confidence worsened by widening allegations of clergymen sexually abusing children.

The Vatican’s moral authority has been eroded by reports of sexually predatory priests and cover-ups by supervising bishops in Europe and North America, compounding a longer-term decline in piety and church attendance.

“Just because there is a crisis doesn’t mean we stop recruiting,” said Father Bernard Podvin, spokesman for Roman Catholic bishops in France, a country of 62 million people of whom about two-thirds identify themselves as Catholics.

“This is about education and showing what a priest’s mission is … things that used to be known when society was more stable, but now it’s much more difficult with so much of the population no longer meeting a priest,” he said in an interview.

The public recruitment campaign aims to portray clergy life in a more light-hearted, modern fashion and educate people of all ages to the benefits of a career in the church.

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