Vatican secretary of state defends celibacy

The Vatican’s Secretary of State has said that the need for solutions to shortages of priests does not justify scrapping celibacy.

Speaking at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University last week, Cardinal Pietro Parolin stressed that celibacy is a gift that must be received and nurtured with “joyful perseverance”.

He acknowledged that the lack of priests in some parts of the world is regarded as a “sacramental emergency”.

But it is nevertheless necessary “not to take rushed decisions, or decisions based solely on the basis of present need”, The Tablet reported him saying.

The cardinal added that that the call to celibacy is a different way of giving one’s self completely in a loving relationship.

This offers “an opportunity for the priest to live a rich affection for his own personal journey and for the exercise of his mission”.

“It is not an absence of profound relationships, but a space for them,” he continued.

“It is a ‘path of freedom’ that the priest disciple fulfils together with Christ, by his sustained and animated grace, for the Church and the world”.

Cardinal Parolin acknowledged that celibacy is not demanded by the “very nature of the priesthood”.

But it offers “special advantages” for clergy in their pastoral ministry, he said.

These include the “freedom to serve”.

Celibacy, the cardinal said, is “suitable for those called to the priestly ministry”.

It allows priests to “travel light” so that they can “reach everyone, carrying only the love of God”.

He stressed that celibacy is a gift that must be received and nurtured with “joyful perseverance” so that it may “fully bear fruit”.

He noted that celibate priests ensure the “People of God always have radically free shepherds”.

Later this week, the Pope will visit Mexico, where there is a marked shortage of priests, with only one priest for every 6500 Catholics.


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