LETTER: Priestly figures

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From Professor Michael Nolan

Sir: Peter Stamford talks of departures from the ministry ("Another view", 18 September). In the 30 years from 1964 to 1993, the total number of Catholic priests who left the ministry was 55,324, an average of 1,844 per annum. There have throughout the period been roughly 400,000 priests worldwide.

In the six years from 1988 to 1993 the number who left was 1,027; 988; 954; 967; 1,045 and 1,092. Thus the present rate is roughly 0.25 per cent.

Mr Stamford talks of the missions. From 1978, when the present Pope came to office, to 1993, the number of diocesan priests rose in Africa from 5,507 to 12,770, in Asia from 12,719 to 22,102, and in Latin America from 23,487 to 30,118. Over the same period the number of diocesan ordinations rose in Africa from 288 in 1978 to 737 in 1993, in Asia from 504 to 983 and in Latin America from 541 to 1,387.

Only in Western Europe and the English-speaking countries is there a decline.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Nolan

Maurice Kennedy Research


University College Dublin


18 September