A WARNING has been sounded by the Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury that Christians may soon become “strangers in our own land”.
The Rt Rev Mark Davies was delivering his grim message to more than 1,000 young Catholics, aged between 16 and 30, at a five-day prayer-fest in Norfolk. He urged them to make a “clear stand” for their faith after recent Government data which suggest Christians living in Britain will soon become a minority.
The bishop told his audience that the results of the last census suggested most Britons would not describe themselves as Christians by 2020. A recent think-tank warned that 4,000 churches could close by 2020 if congregations continue to shrink at current rates.
Bishop Davies said:
With more than three million in Rio last month and with more than a thousand in Walsingham this weekend, we might not really feel like a minority but that is what Christians are about to become in this country of ours.
By 2020, if the analysis of the recent census is to be believed, most people in this land will no longer identify themselves in any way as Christians.
It’s a situation you already know well as young people of 21st century Britain – a situation which will surely demand of new generations of Catholics a clear stand, an inspirational lead and, as the Gospel reminds us today, a human struggle.
Davies has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Government’s plans to legalise gay marriage and used an Easter address to criticise the proposals.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in France also appears to be on its last legs. According to this recent report, more than one-third (35 percent) of France’s overll population and almost two-thirds (63 percent) of youth said they belonged to “no religion” and very few people, just an estimated one in 20, regularly attend Mass.
Father Innocent Feugna, an African deacon who works at St Pierre de Guise in northern France, complained that his congregation in aging and dying out. He lamented:
Here I’m preaching to pensioners. In Cameroon, [the Catholic] Mass is animated, it’s alive – here services are still flat and cold. In Cameroon, the churches are full. We’ve got children. We’ve got adults, all ages. It’s completely different from France.
Not only are France’s church-goers aging, so are church officials – the average priest in the country is now 75, forcing the importation of foreigners to conduct religious services.
Young people [in France] have different aspirations. Their interests lie elsewhere. The Church perhaps doesn’t have the right message for young people here.
Commented Douglas Yates, assistant professor of political science at the American University of Paris and professor at the American Graduate School in Paris:
As the priests in France get older, they are being replaced by Africans, particularly in rural areas, a phenomenon that draws not a little attention in the mass media. If the trend continues, the Catholic church will become a minority religion. Already it is eye-to-eye with agnostic and atheists. Modern France is a secular society.
And all the better for it too!
Hat tip: BarrieJohn