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Sunday, 26 May, 2002, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Church shaken by priest crisis
Archbiishop Peter Smith
Peter Smith has the role of turning the diocese round
The Roman Catholic church in Wales has been defending claims it is facing a recruitment crisis of priests.

Reports about the Roman Catholic Church in Britain show the number of priests, and those applying to train as priests has slumped to an all-time low.

The total number of priests in training across England and Wales is 48 and the figures for Wales are the worst in the UK.

Former Archbishop John Ward
Former Archbishop John Ward

But a leading Roman Catholic official in Wales has dismissed claims, which linked the situation to the former Archbishop of Cardiff's handling of priests carrying out child abuse.

Archbishop John Ward retired last year through ill-health, months after being accused of ignoring warnings about the paedophile activities of two priests in the diocese.

The seriousness of the situation led to the Pope's envoy being sent to Wales on a fact-finding mission.

The status of the priesthood has gone down. We do not need people who want to be on pedestals

Margaret Kennedy, Macsas

Archbishop Peter Smith, who replaced John Ward, said he believed the numbers had levelled off after years of decline from the 60s onwards.

"We need priests if the church is going to be the church.

"There is no one single cause - a great deal of it is the very secularised culture we are living in. Young people have their calling drowned out by all sorts of other things, such as going out and making a mint."

Margaret Kennedy, the founder of Macsas - the clergy abuse survivor group - said she was not surprised by the survey's findings on recruitment.

"The sexual abuse scandal has not helped at all. It has made people think about what they want of their priests. "There were many priests in the Cardiff area who spoke out at the time of the crisis."

Mrs Kennedy said she hoped the warning within the report would lead to more house or community church gatherings.
Father John Lloyd
Father John Lloyd: Convicted of abuse

"I do not know why we get worried about this.

"Perhaps the time has come for a new way of running the church. We have become fossilised, medievalised. The church is not feeding me spiritually in the way I would have liked.

"There are women who are quite willing to give themselves to the priesthood, but the Vatican is not listening. This is a terrible indictment of the Church.

"The status of the priesthood has gone down. We do not need people who want to be on pedestals."

The church has suffered a general decline in recruitment because of its old-fashioned celibacy laws, which some potential recruits find hard to accept.

Mrs Kennedy said it was recognised in some parts that the church suffers from bad leadership, mismanagement and authoritarian rule from Rome.

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Margaret Kennedy, Macsas
"This report does not come as a surprise"
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