The UK Catholic Church is celebrating an end to the decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious life as new figures reveal a modest rise in the number entering seminaries and religious houses, reports The Tablet.
Statistics released to coincide with Vocations Sunday showed that nearly 100 men and women entered convents, seminaries and religious houses across England and Wales in 2013. Some 44 men entered seminaries and 22 men and 30 women entered religious life.
This is the first time that the number of entrants to priestly formation has increased since 2010, but is significantly lower than in the 1980s, when the number of men entering diocesan seminaries stood at around 160.
Asked by The Tablet if this long-term decline indicated the need for a conversation about mandatory celibacy, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said: 'From my point of view celibacy is a great gift in the life of the Latin Church and will remain an important quality.'
He said that the mandatory celibacy requirement was not putting people off becoming priests.