Low Turnout For Pope In Belgium
Trying to invigorate an increasingly indifferent flock, Pope John Paul II honored a Belgian missionary folk hero Sunday before a less-than-full house.
Thirty thousand places had been set aside outside Koelkelberg Basilica for the beatification of Damien De Vuester, a 19th century priest who died caring for Hawaiian lepers.
About 20,000 turned out. Ten years ago, when the pope first came to this predominantly Roman Catholic country, Mass outside the same church drew 100,000.
Recent surveys found Belgians alienated by John Paul’s refusal to lift Vatican bans on premarital sex, contraceptive use and female or married priests.
Sunday Mass attendance in Belgium has been steadily dropping over the past few decades.