Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth has called on every Catholic in his diocese to be a “disciple-making disciple”.

In a pastoral message, the bishop noted that less than one per cent of the population in the region were church-going Catholics. This, he said, was “something akin to the percentages in countries like Pakistan or Myanmar [Burma]. So we are very much in mission territory.”

Bishop O’Toole pointed out that the number of Mass-goers in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset has nearly halved over the last 30 years, from 27,000 to 14,000. He said that, while people speak of a “crisis of priests”, he sees a “crisis of disciples”.

He said: “Pope Francis speaks of being ‘missionary disciples’; each of us staying close to Jesus and deepening our love of Him, and at the same time, going out to others that they may come to follow Him, too.

“Each of us is called to be a ‘disciple-making disciple’. Further, a local church which is not making disciples is failing in a fundamental aspect of its life,” he said.

Bishop O’Toole stressed that evangelisation was not primarily about numbers. “Our motivation is that we love Jesus and we want others to know the beauty of His friendship and His love,” he said.

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