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Pope Francis Affirms His Attachment to Priestly Celibacy

The main objective of this congress is to deepen the relationship between the fundamental priesthood of the baptized and the ministerial priesthood. The subject seems interesting but it is also full of pitfalls. Indeed, the modern tendency is to divide the priesthood between the priests, possessing the priestly character, and the laity, which amounts to distorting the priesthood.

We will have to wait for the publication of the proceedings to give an exact report of this colloquium.

The pope opened this symposium with a conference lasting more than an hour. He spoke in particular of the four “proximities” which allow the priest to live his priesthood in a fulfilled way, according to him.

The third proximity, which is that of the priests with one another, enabled him to develop the theme of priestly fraternity and the charity of the priests with each other.

This theme gave him the opportunity to address the subject of celibacy, which is being discussed more and more insistently today, especially since the attempt to mitigate it during the Amazon Synod, and especially since the holding of the third General Assembly of the German Synodal Path which clearly and positively demanded that priests be allowed to marry.

The pope has shown an attachment to the immemorial discipline of the Latin Church. “Where priestly fraternity is put into practice, and where there are bonds of true friendship, it is also possible to live the choice of celibacy with more serenity,” he first declared.

Then he added that celibacy is “a gift that the Latin Church preserves, but it is a gift which, in order to be experienced as sanctification, requires healthy relationships, relationships of true esteem which find their roots in Christ. Without friends and without prayer, celibacy can become an unbearable burden and a counter-witness to the very beauty of the priesthood,” he added.

We can therefore conclude that the Pope seems attached to this discipline, and that he wants to preserve it. He does not seem ready to mitigate it, as he had said two or three times.

It remains however that, in the current conditions, with the intolerable push against priestly celibacy which is exerted across the Rhine, one would have expected more of the Sovereign Pontiff.

When a similar situation arose during the “Dutch Pastoral Council,” Pope Paul VI reacted strongly, having devoted an encyclical to it less than three years prior. But we have to believe that he had not closed the door completely, since, 60 years later, we are again in the same situation.

It is therefore to be feared that the same process will repeat itself: personally opposed to a change in this discipline, will Pope Francis do more than his predecessor? Or will he leave the question still open until certain priests, supported by their bishops, decide to move things forward by getting married, as is to be feared in Germany?

The Center for Research and Anthropology of Vocations, created in November 2020 and chaired by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, is organizing an international symposium being held from February 17 to 19 on the theme “For a fundamental theology of priesthood.” Pope Francis opened this colloquium, organized in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican.


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