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More Swedes than ever apply for priesthood

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12:27 CET+01:00
Record numbers of Swedes have their hearts set on being priests - despite the fact that membership of the Swedish Church is continuing to decline.

Now, reported Sunday's Svenska Dagbladet, Lutheran pastors from the likes of Germany, Poland, Denmark and France who are seeking work in Sweden - due to falling demand at home - are being turned away.

There are currently 3,200 priests in the Swedish Church, among a total of 25,000 employees. But for the first time since the church was separated from the state, membership has fallen to below seven million.

That presents a dilemma for many dioceses which, discovered SvD, are now considering imposing limits on the numbers of new recruits. Not since the 1960s has the supply of priests outstripped demand.

The Pastoral Institute in Lund is one of the main training grounds for the Swedish Church. This year 34 students will be ordained, followed by another 11 next January. More will begin their education in the summer, to take their orders in August 2007.

"We can expect a very large group, between 30 and 40 candidates," said the head of the Institute, Ingegerd Sjölin.

In Gothenburg church officials have already discussed plans of limiting the numbers of applicants, although there are other ideas for solving the problem. One, says Marie Ottensten, who is responsible for recruitment in the city, is that priests could also have another job on the side.

However, not everyone in the Swedish Church is comfortable with turning away wannabe priests.

David Kindbom, who handles recruitment for the church in the Stockholm diocese, told SvD that it would be a big mistake.

"We only see advantages with having so many competent and capable people wanting to be ordained," he said.

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