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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 22:27 GMT 23:27 UK
Vatican cracks down on travelling priests
St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City hanging with the pictures of five new saints
The Vatican needs priests to spread the word
By David Willey in Rome

The Vatican is cracking down on Roman Catholic priests from developing countries who refuse to return home after tasting the pleasures of life in the West.

New guidelines have been approved by Pope John Paul II for Roman Catholic bishops in charge of mission territories who send young priests abroad to study.

Pope John Paul
The Pope has approved the guidelines to missions abroad
Many priests from poor countries who come here to Rome or travel to other Western European countries to study end up staying here on various pretexts.

They enjoy life more in Europe or America than at home, and are often welcomed by local clergy and given parish duties owing to the acute shortage of new candidates for the priesthood in most Western countries.

Shortfall

Cardinal Tomko, a former head of the Vatican's world-wide missions, said young priests from Africa, Asia and Latin America are seen in ever greater numbers in the West, while two-thirds of the world's population is still ignorant of the Christian message.

The new Vatican guidelines call for these priests to return home to help spread the gospel among peoples who have not yet been baptised.

Some African countries have between a third and a half of their priests living permanently abroad, according to Vatican sources.

Bishops are urged to be more selective in sending their future clergy abroad for higher studies.

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