Existence of Church “under threat” as one priest ordained
Only one new priest was ordained this year in Flanders, the Catholic magazine Tertio reported last week. The single ordination took place in the see of Bruges. On the other side of the language frontier, however, there were nine new priests ordained and one canon.
"If something doesn't change, the very existence of the Catholic Church in this part of the world will be threatened," commented Tertio editor Peter Vande Vyvere. Although the fall in the number of priests was matched by a decline in number of church-goers, he said, "A church community cannot do without a certain number of ordained office-holders". He also called for a decoupling of the questions of ordination and celibacy, while admitting that it was no guarantee of success. There is a similar decline in the numbers of clergy being ordained into the Anglican and Protestant churches, where celibacy is not a requirement.
Nevertheless, Flanders saw ten new permanent deacons ordained this year. Permanent deacons, who help officiate at Mass and assist priests in pastoral duties, are not required to be celibate. Transitional deacons, on the other hand, are ordained to the diaconate as a step on the road to ordination as priests, and they are required to be celibate. There were three transitional deacons ordained this year, two in Bruges and one in Antwerp.
In French-speaking Brussels and Wallonia, ten men were ordained to the priesthood, three in the archbishopric, two in Liege, one in Tournai and four in Namur. There were also ten deacons.