During the presentation of the Pope’s Holy Thursday Letter to Priests, Archbishop Csaba Ternyak, Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, said that although the number of priests in the world is on the rise, where populations are declining so are the number of priests.

Archbishop Ternyak said the total number of clergy in the world (including bishops and deacons) at the end of 2001 was 439,850, while in 1961 it was 406,509.  14% of existing parishes (216,736 at the end of 2001) were created during the last 30 years.

In addition he said the proportion of priests expressly dedicated to parish ministry has risen even more notably: 221,095 parishes are led by a priest, while only 200,295 were in 1978.

The Archbishop underscored that the drop in vocations in some Western countries “corresponds to the progressive aging of the local population, the troublesome phenomenon of the drop in birth rates, and finally to the cultural phenomenon of the increase in secularism.”

At the same time, he said that a growth in the clergy is occurring, especially on the younger continents, “where procreation is still significant and where the culture has been less affected by religious crisis.”