Tag Archives: ecclesiology

The Church by the numbers 2013


On 13 May 2013, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, SDB, the Secretary of State and Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the assistant in the same office, presented the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae (the Church’s Statistical Yearbook) to Pope Francis and the rest of the Church.

This annual publication is official document outlining ever imaginable stat one would want to know, and more.

The statistical information in the Church Yearbook refers to the year 2011 which details the Catholic Church in the 2,979 ecclesiastical circumscriptions. That is, the dioceses and other administrations of the Church around the planet.

As already known, the Church is diminishing in Europe and growing in Asia and Africa.

General statistics:

  • From 2010 to 2011, the number of bishops increased from 5,104 to 5,132;
  • The steady increase in the number of priests which began in the year 2000 has continued. From 412,236 priests in 2010 to 413,418 in 2011;
  • The number of permanent deacons registered a strong increase: from 29,000 in 2001 to 41,000 in 2011;
  • Candidates for the priesthood, diocesan and religious, have increased since 2001 (112,244) by 7.5%. In 2011, there were 120,616 registered;
  • The number of Catholics in the world increased from 1.196 billion in 2010 to 1.214 billion in 2011, an increase of 18 million faithful.

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Saint Matthias: listened to the community, and followed Jesus

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Getting closer and closer to Pentecost Sunday that Church’s selections from the Acts of the Apostles gives a clearer sense of how grace works in the life of the Christian community. Today’s feast of Saint Matthias, one of the elected apostles (Acts 1:15-26) replacing Judas shows how discernment of spirit works to provide apostolic continuity in pastoral authority and power. Discernment is never one-sided; it is always a two-way street on the part of the man and on the part of the Church to choose who serves as an ordained minister of the Gospel. Matthias’ vocation to replace Judas as one of the bishops was given to him; neither he nor single one person had the power to make the selection; it was done with in the midst of the community because the community is a place to encounter the living, resurrected Christ. Moreover, one can’t say that Saint Matthias gained much: he preached the Truth of the Gospel, confirmed the faith and he lost his life: nothing greater than the love he had for Christ Jesus propelled him to serve with all his heart.

Note what the Collect of the Mass prays: God assigned Saint Matthias a place of service and pastoral responsibility and it is our hope to numbered among the elect, that is, among the saved. Key here is God’s action in each of our lives; it is not our own desires alone that makes salvation possible. We are meant to share the lot of the saints, but our freedom and God’s grace need to be operative for this gift to be realized.

Matthias met his Savior by crucifixion in Judea and his mortal remains are located at Saint Matthew’s Abbey, Trier, Germany.

As the Church prays,

O God, who assigned Saint Matthias a place in the college of Apostles, grant us, through his intercession, that, rejoicing  at how your love has been allotted to us, we may merit to be numbered among the elect.

The following selection from a sermon of Saint John Chrysostom on Saint Matthias may be instructive on the early practice of ecclesiological need.

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Father Taft: we need a new ecclesiology –a startling revolution– Catholics are the no longer the only kids on the block

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It is said that “The Eastern Churches have a special vocation in the contemporary world, which is both distinct from, and complementary to, that of the Western Church. Pope John Paul saw it thus, but he was not the only one. The language of the ‘two lungs’ of the Church suggests that the Church’s activity in the world is much diminished when one of the lungs is operating at a reduced capacity – which it certainly is if it is not fully being what it is meant to be.”

A vocation to serve the Churches, East and West, has been radically lived by a New England Province Jesuit priest, Robert F. Taft, for nearly a half-century. Christopher B. Warner published a terrific interview in the Catholic World Report, “Building Bridges Between Orthodox and Catholic Christians” is required reading to get a sense of the Church’s teaching and life.

Father Taft was a professor of mine, and he remains an inspiration and mentor.

Mary, the Mother of God is united with the Church, St Ambrose teaches


By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.  For in the mystery of the Church, which is itself rightly called mother and virgin, the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion as exemplar both of virgin and mother.  By her belief and obedience, not knowing man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the new Eve she brought forth on earth the very Son of the Father, showing an undefiled faith, not in the word of the ancient serpent, but in that of God’s messenger. The Son whom she brought forth is He whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, namely the faithful, in whose birth and education she cooperates with a maternal love.

Second Vatican Council 

Lumen gentium

That heaven and earth touch, St Peter’s Omaha guides

I was reading one of my favorite blogs this afternoon, Fr. Z’s Blog (olim: What Does The Prayer Really Say?) and read his post St Peter’s Church in Omaha, NE. As I am curious about many things, especially in the ways the Incarnation is made manifest in parishes, I was stunned with the clarity of the pastor’s clarity, charity, and competence in leading souls. In fact, I watched the video on St Peter’s Church more than once because I had to get it clear in my mind and heart what Father Damian Cook and his collaborators are doing, and in the ways the Holy Spirit has allowed His gifts to be extroverted. There is a distinctive focus on the cultures of prayer, community, study and service which is a wonderful gift. St Peter’s is a place that the proposal of the gospel and the Church come alive.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Father Cook is orchestrating so many good things for Christ and His Church, both universal and in the local Church of Omaha. But let’s be clear: it is not Cook but Christ; it is not the community that’s center, but the Communio of the Trinity. I don’t want to canonize Father Cook but I do want to draw attention to the good being done.

As the Prophet Ezekiel showed us, and more importantly what the Lord did for us in His Resurrection: that it is possible for old bones to be constituted again (and in the Lord’s case, in a glorified body). Father Cook is illustrating how a decaying church community in urban Omaha can become a thriving religious and cultural treasure.

This is a clear and contemporary example of Saint Benedict rebuilding culture, or Saint Francis rebuilding the Church, or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta caring for all people. And the examples are plentiful…

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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