French Church launches drive for more priests


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France's Catholic church has launched a public campaign for more priests.

"Just because there is a crisis doesn't mean we stop recruiting," said Father Bernard Podvin, spokesman for Roman Catholic bishops in France, in reference to the sex abuse cases surfacing in the Church, according to a Reuters report in the New York Times.

About two-thirds of France's 62 million people identify themselves as Catholics.

"This is about education and showing what a priest's mission is ... things that used to be known when society was more stable, but now it's much more difficult with so much of the population no longer meeting a priest," he said in an interview.

The public recruitment campaign aims to portray clergy life in a more light-hearted, modern fashion and educate people of all ages to the benefits of a career in the church.

Parish priest numbers have fallen alarmingly. According to French daily Le Parisien, France had just over 15,000 priests in 2008, down more than 5,000 since 1998.

Podvin said these numbers were too small especially with new community centres and hospitals popping up alongside the more than 100 dioceses across France.

The campaign centres on three age groups. For the youngest 16-22, often unsure as to which career to pursue, more than 70,000 postcard-size advertisements will be distributed to 600 outlets. The message is simple: "Why Not?" or "Jesus is My Boss," a smiling, dog collar-clad young man says.