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    Friday, March 17, 2006

    Poland exports the Faith and Ukraine's "unspeakable trials and suffering"



    Due to the shortage of British clergy, dozens of priests from Poland arrive in the United Kingdom each month to take charge of parishes and minister to the growing number of Polish migrant workers, reports The Guardian. While some are long-term assignments, some priests just fly in for the weekend to celebrate mass.

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    But Polish priests aren’t just going to Britain. In recent months, more than 62 priests from the Archdiocese of Krakow left for assignments around the world, including Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Germany, Tanzania, Ukraine, and the United States.

    Poland seems to be the only nation in Europe where the number of vocations is rising, accounting for one-quarter of all European applications to the seminary. Currently, Poland has 29,089 ordained priests, about 1,845 monks and 23,105 nuns.

    Krakow's seminary alone currently has 240 students. The number of Poles applying to join the priesthood increased, from 4,500 in 1998 to 7,100 in 2005. Some explain the high numbers with the Church's role in the struggle against communism and the extraordinary influence of Pope John Paul II.

    In contrast, in 2003, there were a total of 110 seminarians in all of Ireland and a total of 27 seminarians in England and Wales. This trend of decline repeats itself in other European countries. In France, seminaries accepted 927 applicants in 2001, compared with 1,210 in 1991. There were no applications to join the priesthood in the French-speaking part of Switzerland in 2002.

    And regarding the Ukraine...

    Pope Benedict XVI prayed that Mary and the communist-era martyrs of the Ukrainian Catholic Church would strengthen Ukrainians in their faith and their commitment to Christian unity.

    The pope sent a letter to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, who was leading commemorations of the 1946 "pseudo-synod" manipulated by the Soviet authorities to unite the Eastern-rite Catholic Church with the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Soviet authorities had arrested all the Ukrainian Catholic bishops before the synod began; after the vote to unite with the Orthodox, "violence against those who remained faithful to unity with the bishop of Rome intensified," Pope Benedict said. "

    But despite unspeakable trials and suffering, divine providence did not permit the disappearance of a community that for centuries was considered a legitimate and vivacious part of the identity of the Ukrainian people," the pope said.

    Pope Benedict prayed that the commemoration of the banning of the Eastern Catholic Church in Ukraine would help members of the newly freed and reorganized church "deepen their intimate and convinced bonds with the successor of Peter."

    The Ukrainian Catholic Church, "purified by persecution," has given a powerful witness of faith and fidelity to Ukrainian Catholics around the world and to the entire church, the pope said.

    Invoking Mary and "the many martyrs who adorn the face of your community," the pope offered his blessing to the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

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