Vatican officials say church must improve service to deaf community


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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the Catholic Church no longer considers deafness an impediment to ordination, there are only 13 priests in the world who were ordained deaf, said officials of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

Msgr. Jean-Marie Mpendawatu, undersecretary of the council, said eight of the 13 work in the United States, two minister in Great Britain and one each serve in Brazil, Congo and South Korea.

Father Savino Castiglione, a member of the Congregation of the Little Mission for the Deaf, said the problem is not one of barriers imposed by the church, but is a result of practical educational difficulties.

The lack of deaf priests was one of the topics discussed Nov. 17 when the pontifical council presented the program for its annual international conference, scheduled for Nov. 19-21.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the council, said there are more than 278 million deaf people in the world, and at least 1.3 million of them are Catholic. "That is a lot and the church must act," he said.