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ROME (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has said that there soon won’t be “enough priestly vocations for everyone” and suggested training the laity to make up for the lack of priests.  

Francis made the comment as he was addressing the 56th general chapter of the Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR) in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on Thursday. 

Speaking about the plummeting numbers of vocations within the OAR and the Church, the Pope said that the day will come “when there will be no more Augustinian Recollects, [and] when there won’t be enough priestly vocations for everyone.” 

The Pope had begun his address with a reflection on Saint Joseph ahead of the saint’s upcoming Feast Day on Saturday, but soon moved on to the topic of the crisis of vocations in the OAR, which he compared to the situation in the Church.  

“There is something that the Prior General said that is happening everywhere, in all the dioceses, in all the religious congregations,” said Francis. 

He was referring to a previous comment made by the Augustinians’ Prior General who pointed out that, out of the eight original provinces of the Order, only four now remain.  

“This means that in terms of numbers, we are going down the ravine,” Francis remarked. 

The pope suggested that there are “thousands of explanations” for this, including the fact that young people, who he said are fewer today due to declining birth rates, “do not see things clearly.” 

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By all accounts, Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres' diocese of Arecibo in Puerto Rico is flourishing because of his adherence to the perennial teachings of the Church.

But, without any formal proceedings, Bishop Fernández Torres has been summarily 'relieved' of his episcopal duties allegedly because he championed conscience rights in the face of a Church vaccine mandate in Puerto Rico.

Please SIGN this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres now.

To be clear, COVID-19 is a serious disease, oftentimes with debilitating consequences, or worse, for those who contract it.

However, all coronavirus vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have been tested on or produced with cell lines of aborted babies. And, the vaccines have been linked to serious side effects, while none has yet completed long-term testing.

Given the complexity of this issue, the Church has determined that getting vaccinated is a matter of personal discernment which each individual must make after informing his or her conscience.

As such, the Church teaches that there is no moral obligation to be vaccinated. Indeed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Church's teaching authority where faith and moral are concerned, issued a statement to that effect in December, 2020.

Specifically, the CDF's, “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines,” of December 17, 2020, n. 5 states: “At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

Therefore, it would appear that for simply restating the current teaching of the CDF and for opposing his brother bishops in Puerto Rico on this seminal matter of conscientious objection, Rome is now attempting to "cancel" Bishop Fernández Torres.

This is wrong, unfair and discriminatory!

And, Bishop Fernández Torres is hardly the first bishop to defend Church teaching on conscientious objection on the issue of mandatory vaccination. Both the Colorado and South Dakota bishops' conferences released similar statements, and like Bishop Fernández Torres, they also offered to validate religious exemptions for member of their flock who asked to be exempted from vaccination.

Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres.

For his part, Bishop Fernández Torres, 57, a staunch defender of life and family, protested his removal as "totally unjust" in a statement released Wednesday (3/9/2022).

The bishop, who led his diocese for nearly 12 years, noted that Pope Francis’ apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico verbally requested that he resign, but said that he refused to do so, as he "did not want to become an accomplice of a totally unjust action."

"No process has been made against me," Bishop Fernández Torres wrote, "nor have I been formally accused of anything, and simply one day the apostolic delegate verbally communicated to me that Rome was asking me to resign."

“A successor of the apostles is now being replaced without even undertaking what would be a due canonical process to remove a parish priest,” the bishop added.

“I was informed that I had committed no crime but that I supposedly ‘had not been obedient to the pope nor had I been in sufficient communion with my brother bishops of Puerto Rico,’” he said. “It was suggested to me that if I resigned from the diocese I would remain at the service of the Church in case at some time I was needed in some other position; an offer that in fact proves my innocence.”

Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres. Thank you!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

'Pope Francis abruptly removes faithful bishop who opposed COVID vaccine mandates' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-abruptly-removes-faithful-bishop-who-opposed-covid-vaccine-mandates/

'Puerto Rico bishop supports conscience objections to COVID vaccines, allows priests to sign exemptions' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/puerto-rico-bishop-supports-conscience-objections-to-covid-vaccines-allows-priests-to-sign-exemptions/

**Photo Credit: Diocese of Arecibo

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He also opined that Europe and America “do not give us what they used to in terms of vocations” and suggested that the Church “will have to look at other cultures” to find them. 

Francis then challenged the friars gathered in the Clementine Hall to consider the extinction of their order and of the priesthood, and to prepare for “the day when there will be no more Augustinian Recollects, [and] the day when there won’t be enough priestly vocations for everyone.”  

“Do not be afraid to ask yourselves this question: Have we prepared the laity? Have we prepared the people to continue with the pastoral work in the Church?” he continued.   

He added: “I do not dare to be a prophet and say what will happen, [but] it worries me, it worries me.”  

“I trust in the Lord, but I also have to say these things.” 

In the conclusion of his address, Francis suggested that lay people should be given “the charism” of priests and religious to be able to carry on in their absence.  

“Let us prepare ourselves for what is going to happen, and let us give our charism, our gift, to those who can carry it,” he said.  

The full text of the Pope’s address to the Augustinian Recollects can be found on the Vatican’s official website but is so far available only in Spanish.  

Francis made his remarks just a few days after a German bishop authorized eighteen lay people, seventeen of them women, to confer the sacrament of baptism. Bishop Overbeck claimed his decision was made in response to a lack of priests in his diocese. 

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