Florence, Italy, Jan 10, 2021 / 08:01 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Florence has said no new students have entered his diocesan seminary this year, calling the low number of priestly vocations a “wound” in his episcopate.
Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, who has led the Archdiocese of Florence since 2008, said in 2009 he ordained seven men as priests for the diocese, while this year he will ordain one man, a member of the Neocatechumenal Way. In 2020 there were no ordinations.
“I consider it one of the biggest wounds of my episcopate,” Betori said in a video press conference last month. This “is a truly tragic situation.”
The 73-year-old cardinal said he believes the low number of men entering the seminary in his diocese is part of a larger vocational crisis that also includes the sacrament of marriage.
“The problem of the vocational crisis to the priesthood lies within a vocational crisis of the human person,” he stated.
The latest Statistical Yearbook of the Catholic Church, published in March 2020, indicated that the number of priests worldwide fell in 2018 to 414,065, with Europe registering the largest decrease, though Italy still has one of the higher concentrations of priests, at around one priest for every 1,500 Catholics.
Like most of Europe, Italy’s demographics have been affected by a 50-year decline in birth rate. An aging population means fewer young people, and according to national statistics, fewer young Italians than ever are choosing to marry.
According to Betori, a “provisional” culture has likely influenced young adults’ choice of a permanent state of life, such as marriage or priesthood.
“A life that wants many experiences cannot be a life that is consecrated to a finality, to a purpose. It is true for marriage, for the priesthood, for all the choices of people,” he said.
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