The Church Around the World

The Church Around the World

New Archbishop for Los Angeles

Coadjutor Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who succeeded Cardinal Roger Mahony as archbishop on 27 February, is being described as "very open and understanding," "willing to hear and learn and understand," and "very responsive and very affirming" by Los Angeles clergy who fear he may take the United States' largest diocese in a more "conservative" direction.

"I'm as conservative as Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict," Archbishop Gomez, who was ordained a priest of Opus Dei, told the Los Angeles Times. "Opus Dei, before the Second Vatican Council, was the most liberal organisation in the Catholic Church, because it talked about the participation of the lay faithful. That was not normal at that time. And then, somehow, after the Second Vatican Council, it became one of the most conservative organisations in the Church. You know, those terms don't really apply to the Gospel."

"I'm totally committed to the issue of immigration," he stated. "I'm also committed to the culture of life. So in political terms, those are things that are on the opposite sides sometimes, but the Church is richer than those political labels."

"I think [local Catholics] are looking for ... continuity," he added. "You know, change is always difficult ... so they're happy that I'm trying to continue the ministry of the cardinal. But I also notice that - and I think the cardinal would probably agree with me- that people need hope, and spiritual leadership."

Catholic World News

Iraqi Archbishop warns West on Islamisation

The secular Western world is incapable of fully understanding the threat of a "reawakening of Islam" in the Middle East, according to an Iraqi bishop beset by radical movements in his own archdiocese.

In an interview with the Italian bishops' SIR news agency, Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, called the Middle East a "scary volcano" because of the possible consequences of widespread unrest. "There are Islamic forces and movements that wish to change the Middle East, creating Islamic States, caliphates, in which Sharia [law] rules," he warned.

Radical groups present in Iraq such as alQaida and Ansar al Islam are calling on citizens in other Middle Eastern nations to inject an Islamic influence into otherwise general protests in places like Tunisia and Egypt.

For Archbishop Sako these calls have "the clear intention of fueling ... a total religious change" in the area. "They are voices that could find fertile ground in Egypt and elsewhere and therefore should not be underestimated, also because there are regional powers whose leaders have defined these revolts as the 'reawakening of Islam'.

In practice, the goal of these fundamentalists is "to create a void to be able to fill it with religious themes, convinced ... that Islam is the solution to everything."

According to the archbishop, Europe and North America are blind to the possibility of such an Islamisation of the Middle East. "The Western mentality does not allow it to fully comprehend this risk."

He explained that politics and religion are interwoven in the Middle East, whereas there is "a tremendous void" between them in Western nations.

This results in two extremisms, he said. The Middle Eastern mentality is dominated by Islam, while a secularism that denies its Christian roots and relegates Christian values to the private sphere reigns in the West.


Opposition to abortion, "gay marriage" in Peru

A recent poll has shown that over two-thirds of Peruvians are against abortion, same-sex "marriage" and the legalisation of drugs.

The poll carried out between 1-6 February by the Peruvian Company for the Study of Markets and Public Opinion revealed that the Peruvian people "defend morality and overwhelmingly oppose these ideas," stated a press release from the Archdiocese of Lima.

Over 92 percent of those surveyed opposed the legalisation and consumption of drugs in Peru. Likewise, 76.3 percent said they were against abortion. Over 74 percent rejected "gay marriage," and 69.5 percent said they opposed civil unions for same-sex couples.

Abortion, "gay marriage" and the legalisation of drugs have been key issues in the presidential campaign for the 10 April elections.

On 17 January, the vice-presidential candidate for the PerĂº Posible Party, Carlos Bruce, said that his party would implement "gay marriage" if its presidential candidate, former President Alejandro Toledo, were elected.

Catholic News Agency

Worldwide increase in priest numbers

There were over 5,000 more Catholic priests globally in 2009 than in was the case in 1999, according to official Church statistics.

The latest Vatican Almanac shows there were 410,593 priests in the world in 2009 compared with 405,009 in 1999. The number of diocesan priests among these increased by over 10,000 while the number of those belonging to religious orders fell by nearly 5,000.

In North America, as well as in Europe and Oceania, the numbers decreased for both diocesan and religious priests. Africa and Asia, however, brought up the overall figures with a more than 30 percent increase on both continents. At the same time more seminarians are studying for the priesthood in Africa and Asia but fewer in Europe.

In Europe, the average age of priests is higher than in Africa and Asia with the number of European priests falling as new ordinations are fewer than the numbers of those who die. In Asia and Africa, however, the number of deaths has been only one-third of the total of new ordinations.

Between 2008 and 2009 the number of priests in the world increased by 809 which was the biggest increase since 1999.

Vatican Information Service