Thursday, November 16, 2006

"The Value of Celibacy"

Unlike the prior two interdicasterial summits, a statement was issued at this one's end:
"The value of the choice of priestly celibacy according to the Catholic tradition was reaffirmed, and the need for solid human and Christian formation was underlined, both for seminarians and for those already ordained," a brief Vatican statement said.

The Vatican encounter was triggered by the case of Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who recently was excommunicated after he ordained four married men as bishops without papal permission.

The Vatican statement, issued a few hours after the meeting, made no mention of Archbishop Milingo. It said the participants were given updated information on requests by priests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy and on the possibility of readmission for priests who "meet the conditions foreseen by the church."

In recent years, the Vatican has approved the return to active ministry for some priests who left to marry in civil ceremonies, but who later divorced or were widowed and petitioned for readmission. Such readmissions follow a long process and require an expression of repentance from the petitioner, according to Vatican officials.

The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told Catholic News Service it was his understanding that the meeting did not consider major changes in the priestly celibacy rule. Instead, he said, the discussion appeared to focus on the pastoral situation of priests in those special circumstances seeking readmission to ministry.