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Brazil’s Bishops meet to discuss impact of priest shortage on parish life

(Vatican Radio) Four hundred ordinary and auxiliary bishops and archbishops are gathered in Rio de Janiero this month to discuss how the priest shortage is radically changing parish life across Brazil’s staggering 250 dioceses.

“Many of our communities here in Brazil are not able to have daily, or even weekly or monthly Mass” Bishop Elias James Manning O.F.M. Conv, tells Vatican Radio. The US native first came to Brazil since as a young 24 year old priest and has recently retired as Bishop of the diocese of Valença in the ecclesial province of Rio de Janiero.

“The number of priests are not sufficient to take care of all of our communities so, here in Brazil, the lay ministers receive a lot of value. The ministers of the Eucharist, of Baptism and we also have qualified witnesses of Matrimony. We have received permission from Rome to have these qualified lay witnesses – I don’t know how we would translate the term correctly from Portuguese – the bishop can appoint these people. We have these ministries to help with the lack of priests in our diocese and parishes”.

Bishop Manning says the the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil, CNBB) wants to move away from focusing everything in large parish centers, in order to enhance the network of small communities that are very popular in Brazil, especially in rural and jungle areas. This means garnering the potential of these lay ministers to aid the often fatigued priests in forming the communities in the Word and prayer.

He notes how the communities meet weekly for bible study sessions and prayer groups led by lay catechists and says it is a question of empowering the communities to carry on their life of faith in those weeks and months when often a priest cannot be present.

“We have to support more our communities” concludes bishop Manning “and create our parishes – big and small – as centers of community life, giving more values to small communities that are connected”.

Listen to Vatican Radio's full interview with Bishop Manning: RealAudioMP3


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