Worldwide decline in number of priests, seminarians, sisters; Catholic population continues to rise (AsiaNews) According to Vatican statistics, the number of Catholics worldwide rose to 1.329 billion at the end of 2018, an increase of 75 million over the previous five years. During the same time period, however, the number of priests fell by 0.3%, and the number of sisters fell by nearly 8% to less than 642,000—despite strong growth in Africa and Asia. The number of seminarians worldwide also declined, from 118,251 to 115,880. (The number of major seminarians worldwide rose from 63,882 in 1978 to 110,553 in 2000, and peaked at 120,616 in 2011.)
Pope asks faithful to join in worldwide prayer today (Vatican News) Pope Francis has renewed an urgent invitation for the faithful around the world to join him in prayer on Friday, March 27, at 6 pm Rome time (1 pm EDT). As he announced last Sunday, and repeated during his Wednesday public audience, the Pope will give an Urbi et Orbi blessing, and those who participate in the ceremony online may receive a plenary indulgence, subject to the usual conditions. All participation will be remote; the Pope will lead the prayers in an empty St. Peter’s Square.
Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed due to CO19 (Reuters) The Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, and Armenian Apostolic Church share the basilica, built over the site of our Lord’s Crucifixion and Resurrection (Encyclopaedia Britannica article). The Order of Friars Minor (Franciscan order) offers a glimpse of life at the basilica without pilgrims; seven Masses are celebrated each day.
Some US bishops lifting meatless-Friday requirement during Lent (NJ.com) Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, has led a group of American bishops in dispensing the faithful from the obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, because of the “many other sacrifices that we are suddenly experiencing” during the CO19 epidemic. The dispensation does not apply to Good Friday.
Churches exempt from Ohio's stay-at-home order (State of Ohio) Ohio’s March 22 stay-at-home order, in effect from March 23 to April 6, lists “religious entities” among the exempt essential businesses and operations: “religious facilities, entities and groups and religious gatherings, including weddings and funerals” (p. 5). Earlier, on March 16, the bishops of Ohio had decided “to suspend temporarily all publicly celebrated Masses/liturgies, at least through the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter.”
Nun murdered in Gabon (Fides) The Central African nation of 2.2 million (map) is 56% Catholic, 30% Protestant, and 10% Muslim, with 3% adhering to ethnic religions.
At weekday Mass, Pope prays for those who are afraid, preaches on idolatry (Zenit) At a Mass celebrated in the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae on March 26 (video), Pope Francis preached on Exodus 32:7-14, the first reading of the day. The Pope invited those watching the Mass to pray St. Alphonsus Liguori’s act of spiritual communion. The Mass concluded with adoration and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the chanting of the Ave Regina Caelorum.
'Don't assume CO19 is God's punishment," says Australian prelate (Catholic Weekly) “Don’t assume that coronavirus is God’s punishment,” Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia told his people, as the archdiocese prepared for the suspension of all public Masses. He assured the faithful that priests would continue to celebraet mass in private “subject to government restrictions and public health precautions.”
Georgian Orthodox decry attacks on public worship (Orthochristian) The Georgian Orthodox patriarchate has responded strongly to critics who have complained about the continuation of public worship during the CO19 epidemic. The patriarchate called on the faithful to be vigilant in following public-health guidelines, but said: “Prohibiting church attendance for those for whom it is vitally needed is an unjustified offense against God.”