Number of Catholic priests, nuns plunging in Singapore

Society Materials 10 February 2008 07:30 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- Catholic priests and nuns are dwindling so rapidly in Singapore that those in the vocation fear they might be unable to keep pace with the numbers of faithful in the city-state, The Sunday Times reported Sunday.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia, head of Singapore's 200,000-member Catholic community, confirmed the decline. The average age of priests and nuns is 55 years.

The last ordination of a priest was nearly five years ago, said Father William Goh, rector of St Francis Xavier, leaving about 100 priests.

Nuns have also been declining. Two orders, the Good Shepherd Sisters and the Canossian Sisters, have not had a candidate join their ranks in more than a decade, the report said.

"Youngsters these days have been seduced by materialism and money," Reverend Augustine Joseph was quoted as saying.

Smaller families are also cited as a cause. Parents with only one son are often unwilling to allow him to become a priest.

"They will want him to go out and make money to support them," said a former student who has completed his seminary studies.

Potential candidates may also fear that they will not be able to live up to vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience.

Goh noted that the seminary has become more stringent in its selection of priests after the sex and abuse scandals affecting the church worldwide.

L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's newspaper, published figures recently showing that the number of "members of the consecrated life" fell by 10 per cent from 2005 to 2006.

Buddhism is the main religion in predominantly Chinese Singapore. The Indian community is mainly Hindu, and Muslim Malays number 400,000.

A seminary is organizing vocation camps for young men who show an interest in the priesthood.

Nuns are also holding exhibitions to help young women understand religious life.