30% of candidates reject an appointment as bishop, a figure three times that of ten years ago, a Vatican cardinal has revealed.

Driving the news

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops responsible for the selection of prelates around the world, made the claim in an interview with Spanish website Vida Nueva.

“When I came here almost a decade ago, one in ten did not accept, claiming personal or other reasons. Now it’s three out of ten”, Ouellet, head of the Vatican ‘bishops factory’ since June 2010, said.

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Pushed for the reasons why a growing number of priests refuse the mitre, Ouellet explained that “it may be because they do not feel capable, lack faith, have some difficulty in their lives or prefer not to risk causing harm to the Church”.

The rejections of bishoprics are “due to various reasons that are respected” in the Congregation, the cardinal said.

Ouellet did, however, warn of a “general crisis of faith” present in much of the world that also manifests itself in a decline in vocations “in marriage, in consecrated life, in priestly life and in culture”.

Why it matters

As for what his Congregation is on the look-out for in a new bishop – even despite the lack of candidates – Ouellet said that what the Church needs now is “fewer professors and more pastors”.

The Church needs as bishops men with the “smell of the sheep”, “empathy” and with an interest in “the poorest and the farthest away”, the cardinal insisted.

“It’s not enough to stress the truths of faith, because culture has changed so much in the last 40 years and we have to enter a new era of dialogue”, Ouellet affirmed.

“If we concern ourselves more with those who suffer, with the abandoned, with the poor who struggle to survive, the whole community will get on mission and will renew itself through concrete charity”, Ouellet continued, insisting too that still too few “priests and bishops” understand and accept that change in priorities.

“The poor are not an ideology for the Pope, but something from the Gospel”, the cardinal concluded.

“It’s a mission from charity, and if mission isn’t preceded by charity, the explanation won’t get through, the word won’t permeate”, Ouellet warned.

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