Archive of November 1, 2011

Episcopal Church reports lowest membership in 70 years

Washington D.C., Nov 1, 2011 (CNA) -

New statistics from the Episcopal Church show the group's loss of more than 200,000 members and 300 parishes between 2006 and 2010, bringing membership to its lowest since the 1930s.

In an Oct. 22 blog entry, commentator David Virtue noted that if the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion continues to lose active members at the present rate, then “in 26 years there will no longer be anyone attending an Episcopal church.”

Virtue made his prediction based on figures showing five years of consistent decline in average Sunday worship attendance, as well as total membership and number of parishes, in the Episcopal Church.

The official “Episcopal Domestic Fast Facts Trends 2006-2010” document showed a 16 percent decline in members since 2000.

The denomination has lost an average of 25,798 Sunday worshipers each year since 2006, bringing the total of U.S. Episcopal worshipers on a given Sunday to 657,831 in 2010. Overall, the Sunday attendance rate in Episcopal communities has declined by 23 percent since 2000.

With a total membership of 1,951,907 in 2010, the Episcopal Church has reached its lowest rate of membership since the 1930s. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, the mainline Protestant denomination last reported having less than 2 million members in 1939.

Episcopalianism peaked numerically in 1959 with more than 3.4 million members. Since 1968, however, it has lost over one third of its membership.

According to the official numbers, 68 percent of congregations now include 100 or fewer people at an average Sunday service.

Meanwhile, 57 percent of Episcopal congregations have seen their typical Sunday attendance decline by over 10 percent since 2006. Fewer than one-fifth of all congregations have experienced an equivalent growth in Sunday worship attendance.

Despite rates of inflation ranging from 0.1 percent to 4.1 percent, Episcopal congregations collected less money from pledges and collections in 2008, 2009, and 2010, compared to the year before.

Controversy has plagued the main U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion since its decision to appoint the openly homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003. On Oct. 17, Episcopal News Service reported on plans for a three-year trial of “a rite for same-gender blessings” to be performed in church.

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Population worldviews clash as 7 billionth baby arrives

New York City, N.Y., Nov 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

As the world welcomes the seven billionth baby this week, experts are divided over whether the planet faces overpopulation or the opposite problem of countries not sustaining their birth rates.

Despite warnings from groups such as the United Nations who spoke of the “challenge” posed by billions of people using global resources, Texas A&M University's Dudley Poston warned that many countries are actually failing to sustain their populations.
“Almost half of the world today lives in countries where the fertility rates are at 2.1 or less children per woman,” Poston told CNA on Oct. 31, explaining that 2.1 is the minimum replacement rate for a society.

Poston, a professor in sociology who specializes in demographics, said the numbers show how these countries have no choice but to “allow more immigrants in or raise the birth rate to keep their population size stable.”

The outlook is grim, however, since raising the birth rate “is next to impossible, and many countries don’t want more immigrants,” he said. 

As countries around the globe celebrate Oct. 31 as the unofficial birthday of the world's seven billionth person, some are using the occasion to voice fresh concerns over waning global resources.

Demographer Joel Cohen of Rockefeller University told CBS News on Monday that rapid population growth is currently underway and “makes almost every other problem more difficult to solve.”

“If we could slow our growth rate, we have an easier job in dealing with all the other things like education, health, employment, housing, food, the environment and so on,” Cohen said.

The United Nations Population Fund added to the concern in an October action alert, saying this “unique moment in human history represents both an achievement and a challenge, and will have an impact on every single person on the planet.”

“A world of seven billion has implications for sustainability, urbanization, access to health services and youth empowerment,” the organization warned.

But Poston noted that countries such as Japan, Croatia, all of Eastern Europe have greater issues to contend with since all “are right now losing population.”

Also included included in the population decline are the historically Catholic countries Poland, Spain and Italy, which all have a replacement rates of 1.4 children per woman.

“In future years as more and more countries reach replacement fertility levels, we will need to start thinking in terms of  'fewer' and not 'too many' people” but not until then, Poston said.

An analysis of U.N. population data by the Population Research Institute found that the world’s population will peak at over eight billion around the year 2040, and then begin to decline.

Because of greater longevity, people aged 65 and older will be close to twice as numerous as those 15 years-old and younger by 2050.

On a deeper level, commentators such as the Wall Street Journal's Bill McGurn said that population growth can be seen as a problem or a blessing depending on how a human being is fundamentally viewed: as just another mouth to feed or a unique individual who can contribute to global resources.

“In short, it all comes down to your conception of the human person,” McGurn wrote in an Oct. 24 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece.

“Another way of putting it is this: Instead of looking for ways to reduce the number of people at the banquet of life, we would do better to look for ways to lay a better and more bounteous table.”

McGurn's observations of this ideological conflict are perhaps outlined most clearly in the Philippines—where debate currently rages between the country's clergy and political leaders on the proposed Reproductive Health Bill. 

The legislation would  attempt to control population growth through widespread distribution of contraceptives and compulsory sex education in schools.

According to the Filipino bishops' conference, all health care service providers, employers, public officials and private citizens could be punished with monetary fines or imprisonment if they refuse to comply with the bill's provisions.

The House of Representatives' Committee on Population and Family Relations approved a consolidated version of several measures contained in the bill on Jan. 30.

The Filipino bishops have called the legislation “a major attack on authentic human values and on Filipino cultural values regarding human life.”

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Family groups call Argentinean politicians to reject abortion

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 1, 2011 (CNA) - The Federal Network of Families in Argentina recently urged politicians to have “the courage to defend human life from the moment of conception to natural death.”

“There is a moral duty to respect the life of every human being, of every innocent human person, and especially the most innocent: the embryo.  Therefore, because it constitutes the deliberate elimination of an innocent human being, abortion is an abominable crime,” the family network said in an Oct. 30 statement.
The network noted that the government has the duty to defend human rights, especially the right to life. “From this we can deduce that the State cannot allow abortion without gravely attacking its very reason for existence.”
The organization said that instead of legalizing abortion, lawmakers should pass a law currently under consideration in the Argentinean House of Representatives. It would grant full protection to the human rights of pregnant women and to their unborn children.
The proposed law “provides concrete solutions to the tragic situations used to justify abortion” by calling for an effective support system for women in difficult pregnancies.
The network called on all those “convinced that the defense of life and of the dignity of man in all stages of existence is essential for the survival of our human condition” to work decisively to prevent the unborn from being killed in Argentina legally.

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Everyone is called to be holy, Pope says on All Saints Day

Vatican City, Nov 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI said on today’s feast of All Saints that everyone is called by Jesus to holiness in their own path toward sainthood.

“The liturgy reminds us today that the original vocation of every baptized person is holiness,” the Pope said in his Nov. 1 Angelus address from the window of his apartment that overlooks St. Peter’s Square.

Jesus Christ, “with the Father and the Holy Spirit, has loved the Church as his bride and gave himself for it in order to make her holy,” he emphasized.

He also reminded Catholics to see the Church as more than just a human institution.

Today, he said, “we are thus invited to look at the Church, not in its temporal aspects marked by human weakness, but as Christ willed it, as ‘the communion of saints.’”

He told them that today’s feast day was “a favorable opportunity” to raise our eyes “from the realities of this world marked by time” up to “the dimensions of God, the dimensions of eternity and holiness.”

The Pope also reflected on how today’s emphasis on the “communion of saints” continues into tomorrow’s commemoration of All Souls, which occurs every Nov. 2. This is the day when the Church prays for the souls in Purgatory.

All Souls Day, the Pope said, “helps us to remember our loved ones who have left us, and all the souls on their way to the fullness of life, just on the horizon of the heavenly Church.”

He noted how the custom of praying for the dead has existed since “the early days of the Christian faith,” and that these prayers are “not only useful but necessary,” since they “not only can help them” but also make their prayers for those on earth effective.

In many Catholic parts of the world, All Souls Day is marked by visiting the graves of loved ones. In several Spanish speaking countries – particularly Mexico – this custom is referred to as the “Day of the Dead.”

“Although a visit to the cemeteries, maintains the bonds of affection with those who loved us in this life,” said the Pope, it also “reminds us that we are all tending towards another life beyond death.”

This means that our “crying due to earthly detachment does not prevail,” he said. Rather, it is overcome by our “certainty of the resurrection” and our “hope of reaching the bliss of eternity”—that “supreme moment of satisfaction, in which all embraces us and we embrace all.”

Pope Benedict concluded by entrusting both “our pilgrimage to the homeland of Heaven,” as well as that of our “dead brothers and sisters,” to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of All Saints.

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Vatican official invites Catholics to remember the deceased

Madrid, Spain, Nov 1, 2011 (CNA/Europa Press) - The consultor of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Aurelio Garcia Macias, has invited Catholics to pray for their deceased loved ones and “hope for their resurrection.”
“If Christ has died and risen, we who are united to Christ through baptism experience death, but we await the resurrection. This is the great Christian message of these days,” he told Europa Press.
He noted that the venerable Christian tradition of visiting cemeteries still exists in countries such as Spain, where millions go to place flowers at the tombs of deceased family members and friends.
Garcia Macias encouraged Catholics to remember the faithfully departed and to pray for them as “a gesture of charity for our brethren no longer with us.”  Praying for them, placing flowers at their tombs and praying for their eternal repose is proof of our love for them. “We pray for them and with them, because we are all part of the earthly and heavenly Church,” he said.
He went on to explain that there needs to be a distinction between Nov. 1, All Saints' Day, and Nov. 2, All Souls' Day.  The Solemnity of All Saints celebrates all those who are in heaven and who followed Christ to the end. It is a day of “joy and happiness” symbolized in the liturgical color of white.
All Souls' Day commemorates all the baptized in Christ and members of the Church who have died, therefore it is a day of “austerity and prayer” to remember our deceased loved ones, he said.

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