Married priests call on pope to end celibacy rule

19th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

19 September 2005, WIESBADEN, GERMANY - Some 80 Catholic former priests ended a four-day meeting in Germany Monday by issuing an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI calling for an end to Rome's nine-century-old policy that forbids priests to marry.

19 September 2005

WIESBADEN, GERMANY - Some 80 Catholic former priests ended a four-day meeting in Germany Monday by issuing an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI calling for an end to Rome's nine-century-old policy that forbids priests to marry.

"We want the practice of the married priest in the Eastern Church to be implemented in the Western Catholic Church," said conference spokesman Heinz-Juergen Vogels.

He said the conferees based their appeal on the conciliatory style of Pope Benedict XVI, who won over hundreds of thousands of young Catholics at the World Youth Day Catholic congress in Germany last month as much by what he did not say as by what he did say.

Under current church practice, priests who take a partner or marry must revert to being lay Catholics, lose their jobs and face disapproval from fellow Catholics. Many have formed associations to campaign against the celibacy rule.

The International Federation of Married Catholic Priests, which met in the central German city of Wiesbaden, claim there are signs of flexibility from Rome.

The federation draws its optimism from a rumoured account of remarks by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in summer 2004, well before his election as pope, when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He reportedly asked a delegation of U.S. bishops, "What would your people think about a re-introduction of the tradition of married priests?" The Americans were supposed to have been speechless for a moment with surprise.

According to the federation, this means that Benedict recognizes that priests were often married in the early church. A council of the church imposed the rule of celibacy in 1139, along with the requirement that clergy who marry abandon their priesthood.

Former priests have also been keenly aware that Pope Benedict made no mention whatever of celibacy when he addressed 600 seminarians gathered in Cologne during World Youth Day.

The International Federation, which has thousands of former priests in affiliated national groups, argues that the New Testament not only contains no requirement for celibacy but mentions priests having wives.

The group also contends that the dramatic shortage of priests in the western world will force Rome to change its mind.

DPA

Subject: German news

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