Bishops in Ghana have expressed concern about the “dwindling number of Catholics” in the West African nation.
In their message ahead of Christmas 2022, members of the Ghana Conference of Catholic Bishops (GCBC) describe the situation as “alarming” and attribute it to “many external and internal factors”.
Although the 2021 Population and Housing Census (2021 PHC) in Ghana shows an increase in the Christian population, “the number of Catholics in the country is dwindling”, GCBC members say in their November 26 statement.
Over the past decades, they say, the population of Catholics in Ghana has been on a downward trajectory, “from 15.1% in the 2000 census, to 13.1% in the 2010 census and further declined to 10% in the 2021 census.”
“This indeed is a disturbing trend for our Church. The statistics reveal that if the trend of decline continues at the present rate of 3.1% per decade, we may end up losing grounds totally by the year 2060,” Catholic Bishops in Ghana say in their statement on the eve of Advent 2022.
They appeal to Catholics to take the decrease in their numbers seriously, saying, “This is why no Catholic can remain comfortable or unconcerned about this alarming situation.”
“A complex of many external and internal factors account for the dwindling population of Catholics in Ghana,” GCBC members say.
They explain, “Some of the external factors include unfavorable Ghana Education policies, proselytization by other churches or religions, emigration, negative impact of the (social) media, socio-economic problems.”
The Catholic Church leaders identify inadequate Chaplaincy services for those in non-Catholic institutions, insufficient catechesis on pre-Sacraments of Initiation, lack of post- Confirmation catechesis especially for the youth, inadequate implementation of the National Youth Policy, inadequate marriage and family life formation, dwindling missionary zeal, insufficient employment of the mass media as some of the internal factors.
No Catholic should remain “complacent or indifferent” in the face of the Catholic population issue in the country, they say in the statement signed by GCBC President, Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi of the Catholic Diocese of Sunyani.
“There should be attitudinal change among all bishops, priests, religious, seminarians, catechists and other lay faithful, including the youth,” the Catholic Bishops further say, adding that all Catholics need to work together, “not only to stem the tide of the decline, but also to begin to grow the population of Catholics in Ghana.”
They say that while the GCBC will endeavor to address the population challenge at the national level, “there should be intentional and collaborative efforts at the diocesan, parish, outstation, basic Christian community and family levels to grow the Catholic population by the year 2030 and in the subsequent decades.”
The Catholic Bishops call for the “renewal or intensification of well strategized primary evangelization, including revival and crusade programmes.”
“The missionary spirit and zeal should be re-enkindled in the clergy, religious and laity, including the youth,” they emphasize.
There is need to implement “good strategies for Church planting in towns, suburbs and villages without Catholic presence,” GCBC members further say, adding that good strategies “will bring the Church closer to the faithful, some of whom travel long distances to attend Mass.”
They urge Ghanaians to complement the strategies with spiritual initiatives, saying, “We believe that in addition to our efforts, we need to pray for the grace to change.”
“We need to pray for God's leading in changing lives. We must pray that God blesses and multiplies our small efforts with greater harvests,” the Catholic Bishops in Ghana say, adding that prayer is necessary for the best outcomes.
“Therefore, we wish to urge
and encourage all Catholics in Ghana to intensify their prayers and
consciously pray about our dwindling population,” GCBC members further
say, and call on Catholics in Ghana to “intentionally pray” for
increased vocations to Priesthood, Religious Life, Permanent Diaconate,
and lay apostolates.