The Vatican has issued new guidelines to stem the drain of priests from mission countries to the developed world. A new document published by the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on Tuesday, points out that the church in Asia, Latin America and Africa is suffering, as so many of their badly-needed priests are going to Europe or North America to train - and then staying on to fill empty posts in parishes, rather than returning home. The document says the movement of priests from mission lands must not harm, but help the growth of the Church. In some areas, the situation is causing major problems. In India, for example, where there are 16 million Catholics - while it is hard for foreign missionaries to get visas to work there, numerous Indian priests are coming to Europe. Cardinal Josef Tomko, former head of the Vatican's worldwide missions, writes in the report that one European diocese alone had 39 priests from India. He said: "There are dioceses of Africa and Asia that have one third or even half the diocesan clergy abroad for economic reasons." In Italy, he said, there are 1,800 foreign priests, of whom 800 were fully integrated in direct pastoral care. "Many new dioceses could be created in mission territories with such a number of diocesan priests!" he said. "The phenomenon has reached such proportions, that the bishops have requested a ruling in this respect," he said. The document calls on young and old churches to "regulate these situations especially through agreements between bishops and diocesan priests of mission territories who are sent abroad and the bishops who receive them." To read the full document visit the Vatican website through our Links pages.
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