English bishops say no to ordaining married men as priests

The bishops of England and Wales have rejected a proposal to ordain married men to the priesthood.

Bishop Seamus Cunningham of Hexham and Newcastle proposed the motion at the bishops’ plenary meeting last month.

He did this on behalf of the Council of Priests in his diocese.

The proposal was rejected after a “thoughtful discussion”, he told his diocesan paper.

“Arguments have been put forward that with the declining number of priests, ordaining married men who are proven in their Christian life, would allow the faithful not to be starved from the sacrament, especially the Eucharist,” he said.

Bishop Cunningham said that many bishops noted that the tradition of the Church for more than 1000 years was that the priesthood and celibacy were a sign and symbol of an interior dedication to Christ and his kingdom and were intimately linked.

He added: “Any separation of them as a norm of the Church would change the nature of how we see the priesthood.”

Bishop Cunningham went on to say that “acknowledgement was made of those married priests who serve in our parishes at the moment” especially former Anglicans and members of the Ordinariate.

He said: “At the heart of the priesthood is sacrifice; the sacrifice of the Mass where Christ gives himself for the salvation of the world, and the sacrifice of the priest who offers his life for his people.

“In the context of this wide ranging discussion, the bishops maintained the traditional teaching of the Church for a celibate priesthood.”

Meanwhile, veteran Vatican correspondent Sandro Magister sees the ordination of married men to the priesthood as a possible theme for the next synod of bishops.

Magister noted the significance of Pope Francis’s visit next year to Chiapas in San Cristóbal de Las Casas diocese in Mexico, where there are only a few elderly priests, but hundreds of married “indigenous” deacons.


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