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Polish priests warned to stop 'treating church as a firm'

Polish priests warned to stop 'treating church as a firm'

Warsaw (ENI). Poland's Roman Catholic bishops have urged their country's clergy to see the priesthood as a "service", rather than a "career" offering good pay and prospects.

"Among many lay Catholics, but also among some priests, the idea has emerged that employment in the church is an agreement which can be contracted and signed, as well as changed and even cancelled," the priests had been told in a letter sent at Easter by the Warsaw-based Catholic bishops' conference.

"Voices are even heard that parish work should be based on agreement, with every task specified. We are alarmed about this attitude to the priestly service, which should in essence be a disinterested one," the bishops said.

Concern has grown about clergy trends in Poland after a 24 percent drop in admissions in 2007 to the country's 84 Catholic seminaries.

In its letter, which was leaked to the press, the bishops' conference said the Polish church was being treated like a "well organised firm", and the priesthood "as a type of job to be evaluated by worldly norms … Such are the effects of separating the church from Christ," the bishops added.

"A personal deep bond with Christ, accepting his style of serving humanity, should be the key characteristic of every Christian, and especially of every priest," wrote the bishops. "This distinctness must be the first point of formation in our seminaries and the basic criterion for accepting candidates for priestly ordination."

The letter was circulated in the run-up to the third anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II on 2 April, which was marked by church services and commemorations nationwide, as well as renewed calls for the Polish pontiff to be declared a saint. The bishops said John Paul II had often warned of "dangers emerging from a civilisation and ideology which offers human life without God".

The bishops' letter asked, "Was his warning heard by us, and have we ensured that his diagnosis reaches ever more frequently to the Catholics of Poland?"