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World News

More priests needed in Latin American cities says Catholic charity

by Donna Birrell

The Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, says more priests are needed in Latin American cities to meet the challenge of mass migration. 

Latin America is the most populous Catholic continent in the world with almost 500 million Catholics - roughly 44 percent of all baptised Catholics in the world. 

Growing numbers are now heading to large cities to escape severe rural poverty.  

Rafael D-Aqui, who is a project lead for ACN in Latin America, says the Church faces the task of ministering to the influx of the new arrivals, with Bolivia’s larger cities posing a particular challenge. 

Numbers there have grown rapidly because of a rural exodus in a country where about 80 percent of the country’s 11 million population are Catholics :

“The capital La Paz, for example, which is situated high in the Andes at an altitude of almost 12,000 feet (3,600 metres), had a population of 766,468 in 2012. 

“But now it has over 1 million inhabitants, owing to the influx of people from the indigenous villages in the rural areas. 

“There is an urgent need for more priests, and for this reason ACN is very much open to the requests from the dioceses affected, in particular for the formation of future priests.”

In Peru, where Catholics make up 76 percent of the population, mass migration from villages is also ongoing. 

The growth of the suburban townships surrounding large cities, as people move there in the hope of finding jobs, has seen young Peruvians facing dangers such as drug addiction, and the loss of their cultural roots and family ties.

Mr D’Aqui stressed the importance of the family, both as a support network and a mainstay of faith, for young Latin Americans.

He said: “Families play a vital role in the transmission of the faith and the care of the community. 

“They support other families, care for the elderly and so forth.

"When the family is broken, these values are lost and a vacuum created that is often occupied by the sects.” 

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