Congress for Priests to Focus on Formation and Vocations

MANILA, Philippines, JUNE 21, 2004 ( Registration for the first National Congress of the Clergy next month is far surpassing the organizers’ expectations.

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The event marks the first time so many priests of the Philippine Church will come together for a congress being convened exclusively for them, said Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales of Manila, when he announced the July 5-9 gathering.

Some 3,700 priests and 90 bishops from 86 dioceses, vicariates and prelatures have already registered, far beyond expectations, said Tita de Villa, chairwoman of the coordinating committee of the congress.

The congress will comprise two days of prayer followed by discussions and reflection on pastoral and theological issues affecting the clergy, particularly the crisis of vocations.

Priestly ranks are shrinking in urban areas such as Manila. For example, of the 180 seminarians in San Carlos Seminary in Makati, only 30 are from the Archdiocese of Manila. Among the 200 priests in Manila serving 92 parishes, a third are due to retire within the next five years.

Archbishop Rosales said the congress will emphasize priestly formation. He lamented that some priests see the priesthood merely as a career.

«Priesthood is a vocation,» the archbishop stressed. «[It] is not the call of the priest, nor the call of the family, but the call of God, through the Church.»

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