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Vatican cracks down on travelling Third World priests

In a new document released on Tuesday, the Vatican has acknowledged the problem that increasing numbers priests born in mission territories who drain their homelands of sorely needed pastoral care by settling in Rome or elsewhere in the West.

The Vatican Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples on Tuesday published an Instruction on the Sending Abroad and Sojourn of Diocesan Priests from Mission Territories.

The instruction sets down the basic principle that the mobility of priests from mission lands "must not harm but help the growth of the Churches in mission territories".

Cardinal Jozef Tomko, until recently was prefect of the
Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, was behind the document, which has the backing of Pope John Paul II.

explained that many priests of mission territories travel to Europe or North America to study. However, at times they are faced with the temptation to stay for lifestyle or other non-mission reasons. First world countries, mostly suffering from the vocations crisis, often welcome the priests with open arms.

In India, where it is difficult for missionaries to obtain visas, the lack of priests compromises the evangelisation of the country and care of its 16 million Catholics. Yet, numerous Indian priests work in Europe. A few years ago, one European diocese alone had 39 priests from India, Cardinal Tomko revealed.

"There are dioceses of Africa and Asia that have one third or even half the diocesan clergy abroad for economic reasons," Cardinal Tomko said. Yet, he added, "in Italy, it is estimated that there are 1800 foreign priests, of whom 800 were fully integrated in direct pastoral" care.

"Many new dioceses could be created in mission territories with such a number of diocesan priests!" Cardinal Tomko observed. "The phenomenon has reached such proportions," that the bishops have requested a ruling in this respect, which is now made public, he said.

The instruction is available on the Congregation's