POPE JOHN PAUL II REAFFIRMS CELIBACY FOR PRIESTS

MANILA, June 30, 2003 By MARILOU JUMILLA (MALAYA)  Pope John Paul II on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) reaffirmed celibacy for priests, rejecting calls in Europe and in the Philippines as well to change the Church rule.

"Celibacy is esteemed in the whole Church as fitting for the priesthood," the Pope said in a 134-page document about Catholicism in Europe titled "Ecclesia in Europa."

The sex scandals that hit the Catholic Church recently led to calls for the opening the priesthood to married men to resolve the "crisis" of decreasing numbers of clergy.

"A revision ... in this regard would not help resolve the crisis of vocations to the priesthood being felt in many parts of Europe," the Pope said.

The document acknowledged there were fewer and fewer men signing up for the priesthood, but said removing the celibacy requirement is not the answer.

"(Celibacy) is a sign of the priest's undivided love for God and for his people," the Pope said.

Instead, the Vatican advised priests to dedicate themselves to attracting more candidates by better explaining the priesthood to lay Catholics and encouraging families and children to consider religious vocation.

In the Philippines, some priests and former priests have espoused the idea of "optional celibacy" for the clergy.

The recent sex scandal involving Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani again opened the debate on whether priests should be allowed to marry.

The Vatican is investigating the allegations of sexual misconduct aired by Bacani's former secretary.

Critics say celibacy was ultimately behind the scandals and that in a modern society inundated by sex, the line between repression and perversion can be a thin one.

Those opposed to the celibacy rule also say it has prevented some men, who may be deeply religious but would like to get married and be priests, from taking up the vocation.

The Church says there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia.

Cardinal Jaime Sin admonished those espousing "optional celibacy" for the clergy, saying this is not in harmony with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Vatican statistics showed there has been a steep decline in the ratio of Catholics to priests worldwide over the past 20 years. In 1978, there were 1,797 Catholics for every priest. In 2001, the number was 2,619. (With Reuters)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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