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Former pope Benedict breaks silence and stuns Vatican watchers

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Former
pope Benedict has publicly urged his successor Pope Francis not to open the
Catholic priesthood up to married men, in a plea that stunned Vatican experts.

The ex-pontiff, who retired in 2013, issued the
defence of clerical celibacy in a book written with arch-conservative Cardinal
Robert Sarah, extracts of which were published in exclusive by France’s Le Figaro.

Benedict’s intervention is extraordinary, given he
had promised to remain “hidden from the world” when he retired and pledged his
obedience to the new pope.

“I cannot keep silent!” Benedict wrote in the book,
which follows an extraordinary meeting of bishops from the Amazonian at the
Vatican last year that recommended the ordination of married men in certain
circumstances.

The
pope emeritus, 92, and Sarah from Guinea weighed in on the controversial
question of whether or not to allow viri probati –
married “men of proven virtue” – to join the priesthood.

Francis is currently considering allowing it in
remote locations, such as the Amazon, where communities seldom have Mass due to
a lack of priests, and is expected to publish his decision in the coming weeks.

The pair asked the whole Church not to be “swayed”
by “bad pleas, theatrics, diabolical lies, fashionable errors that want to
devalue priestly celibacy”.

“It is
urgent, necessary, that everyone, bishops, priests and laity, let themselves be
guided once more by faith as they look upon the Church and on priestly celibacy
that protects her mystery,” they wrote.

They
warned of priests “confused by the incessant questioning of their consecrated
celibacy”.

“The conjugal state concerns man in his totality,
and since the service of the Lord also requires the total gift of man, it does not
seem possible to realise the two vocations simultaneously,” Benedict wrote.

Sarah insisted that while celibacy can be “a trial”
it is also “a liberation”.

Benedict,
who was the first pontiff to resign in almost 600 years, at first withdrew to a
life of quiet contemplation in the Vatican, but has increasingly begun to speak
out on key Catholic issues.

He and Sarah insisted their plea was not a
“political manoeuvre” or “power game”.

But Vatican experts expressed astonishment that the
retired pope would speak out on such a sensitive topic.

“Benedict XVI is really not breaking his silence
because he (and his entourage) never felt bound to that promise. But this is a
serious breach,” Massimo Faggioli, who writes for La Croix, said on
Twitter.

Joshua
McElwee of the National
Catholic Reporter
, tweeted that “a former pope speaking in public
about something his successor is currently in the process of considering” was
“incredible”.

While Vatican expert Iacopo Scaramuzzi pointed out
that “cohabitation (in the Vatican) is difficult if the emeritus pope does not
respect his own promise to hide away and obey”.

The idea of filling empty pulpits in remote
locations by allowing married men to become priests is a divisive once, with
critics warning the emotive issue could fracture the Catholic Church.

Supporters
say it would not be necessary to rewrite Church law; Francis could simply make
an exemption to the rules – like the one already granted to married Anglican
pastors who later converted to Catholicism.

But the ultraconservative wing of the Church – particularly in Europe and North America – has spoken out strongly against the idea, warning that making exceptions could pave the way to the abolition of celibacy globally.

source: AFP/AP

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Original article found on Malta Winds

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