Priestly Vocations a Challenge for Pope Francis

Pope Francis waves to journalists from a car as he leaves the Sumare residency on his way to the Aparecida basilica for a mass, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

Pope Francis waves to journalists from a car as he leaves the Sumare residency on his way to the Aparecida basilica for a mass, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

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"I'm OK with taking those vows," said the altar boy and choir member who was drawn to the church partly by a local branch of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which has spread across the region, bringing some of the singing, dancing, hand-clapping style of Evangelical churches to parishes across the Americas.

Villa, of Latin America's Episcopal Conference, acknowledged that some Charismatic communities have helped attract priests, but he cautioned that the church urges them to follow the rules established by each diocese rather than venturing into unaccepted new forms of worship.

"Almost all of these movements seek in one way or another to recover some element of early Christianity, be it by singing, by the type of catechism formation, by offering a very deep experience of fraternity," said Rodrigo Guerra, director of the Center for Advanced Social Research in Mexico. "It was said that many people are leaving the church because they find a much clearer human brotherhood in the Protestant world."

Some remain skeptical even that a pope who has generated wide sympathy can revive an institution that charts its history back two millennia.

"You don't lead a church with beautiful phrases or charisma or with a more parochial attitude like the one Pope Francis has," said Bernado Barranco, a religion expert at Mexico's Center for Religious Studies. For Barranco, the church is facing great challenges because of its limited capacity to adapt to modernity, including not getting rid of celibacy.

But seminarian Cavazos in Mexico City sees a new attitude in the church.

"To evangelize you must be happy," he said.

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    Associated Press writer Marco Sibaja reported this story in Rio de Janeiro and E. Eduardo Castillo reported from Mexico City. AP writers Vivian Sequera in Rio de Janeiro and Eva Vergara in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.

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