A German Catholic diocese has unveiled plans to "borrow" about 12 priests from India's Kerala state because it cannot recruit enough German men to lead prayers and run parishes.
Fewer men in Germany are choosing the priesthood, leaving parishes without clergy
The diocese of Hildesheim in northern Germany will pay for the 12 to fly to Germany and for them to learn German.
The clergymen are to spend 10 to 15 years ministering to German Catholics before returning to their home diocese of Palai.
The German Catholic Church, which is funded by taxes on parishioners' income, has hired Dutch, Belgian and Polish priests to fill shortfalls for decades, but priest recruitment in those nations has been slipping, too.
Hildesheim, one of 27 Catholic dioceses in Germany, has 265 priests currently, but it has only ordained 33 men in the past decade and has only one ordination set this year. Its guest priest roll includes 38 Poles, three Indians and a Congolese man.
Catholic priests take a vow not to marry and generally work very long hours on modest salaries. Germany has made very little use of deacons, a grade of clergy who are allowed to marry.
Officials said the newcomers would work as curates for three years and would then be given parishes of their own.