Emeritus Pope Benedict: Celibacy for Priests Is ‘Essential’

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI arrives at St Peter's basilica before the opening of the "Holy Door" by Pope Francis to mark the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, on December 8, 2015 in Vatican. Pope Francis marks the start of an extraordinary Jubilee year for the world's 1.2 billion …
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ROME — Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has published a book with Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah emphasizing the importance of priestly celibacy while resisting a push for the ordination of married men originating from the recent Vatican synod on the Amazon region.

The book, titled From the Depths of Our Hearts, will be released in several languages on Wednesday and in English in February, but the French daily Le Figaro published some advance passages from the work on Sunday, offering an idea of the book’s tone and content.

I believe that priestly celibacy “has great meaning” and is “indispensable in order for our journey toward God to remain the foundation of our life,” writes the former pontiff.

“The priesthood is going through a dark time,” writes Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, along with his co-author, Cardinal Robert Sarah. “Wounded by the revelation of so many scandals, disconcerted by the constant questioning of their consecrated celibacy, many priests are tempted by the thought of giving up and abandoning everything.”

“I cannot be silent” write the two prelates in their introduction to the work, which rose out of discussions during last fall’s synod of bishops on the Amazon region, in which certain participants pushed for the ordination of married men in remote regions to alleviate the Catholic priest shortage.

“We met, we exchanged our ideas and our concerns” they write. “We do it in a spirit of love and unity in the Church. If ideology divides, truth unites hearts.”

The issue of married priests made it into the final synod document, which Pope Francis will refer to in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which is expected to be forthcoming.

According to Cardinal Sarah and the former pope, they observed “a strange media Synod that prevailed over the real Synod.”

Do not to be “swayed” by “bad pleas, theatrics, diabolical lies, fashionable errors that want to devalue priestly celibacy,” they urge.

In his appeal for celibacy, Benedict writes that historically, “from the daily celebration of the Eucharist, which implies a permanent service to God, the impossibility of a matrimonial bond spontaneously arose. It can be said that sexual abstinence, which was functional, turned into an ontological abstinence.”

“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 carry out the two vocations simultaneously,” Benedict writes.

For his part, Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s liturgical office, reflects that “celibacy is sometimes a trial, but it is also a liberation” as well as “a joy,” so depriving communities and priests of this “is not a work of mercy.”

“We cannot propose “second-class priests,” he wrote.

The cardinal also rejected the proposal that ordaining married men in the Amazon could be done as an “exception.”

To say this “is a lie, it would become a permanent state,” he said, and it would be “a wound in the coherence of the priesthood.”

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