LOS ANGELES, March 1 (AP)--Hispanics are often segregated from fellow faithful within the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, though parishes in Southern California are better integrated than most, according to a new study.

The report by the Washington-based National Conference of Catholic Bishops concluded that Hispanics are twice as likely as other Catholics to worship in ``separate and unequal settings.''

The study is to be released March 15. Advance copies were obtained by the National Catholic Reporter and the Los Angeles Times, which published the findings today.

The findings present serious challenges for the church's future, said Ronaldo M. Cruz, executive director of the bishops' Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs.

``This is a long-term process. The hope of the bishops is that what happens gradually is that Latinos will be fully integrated into the church. This is not the end of the story. It can't be,'' he said.

Non-Hispanics also head most of the nation's parishes, according to the study, ``Hispanic Ministry at the Turn of the New Millennium.''

Relatively few Hispanics are entering the priesthood or becoming nuns, with the church reporting only one Hispanic priest per 10,000 Hispanic parishioners last year. By comparison, overall there was one priest for every 1,200 faithful.

Hispanics make up 30 percent of the American Catholic population of 62 million, but they are becoming the majority in some areas, such as the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest in the nation.

Covering Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, the archdiocese has roughly a 65 percent Hispanic population.

California's large number of Hispanics may explain why its churches tend to have made more progress in integration than the church nationally, the report said.

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