Lithuanian archbishop says Western ideas have affected Catholicism

KAUNAS, Lithuania (CNS) — A Lithuanian archbishop said freedom and Western ideas have led to a resistance to Catholic teaching and severe clergy shortages in the former Soviet republic. “Freedom has brought people many possibilities, but most aren’t capable of using it responsibly, and this is also a test for the church,” said Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius of Kaunas, president of the Lithuanian bishops’ conference. “For decades, we lived in conditions of occupation. We then accepted every idea from the West with exceptional openness as if everything from there was good, which it isn’t.” He told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI Sept. 1 that the priest shortage makes it difficult to provide clergy for pastoral work in schools and hospitals. Some priests serve three parishes by themselves, and in one parish in his archdiocese two priests minister to 40,000 Catholics. “In the first years of independence, an especially large number of men entered our seminaries, but roughly half didn’t last till the end — not all those wanting to be priests had vocations,” the archbishop said. Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.

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