Former Pope Benedict warns against relaxing priest celibacy rules

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Retired pope Benedict XVI has intervened in a Catholic Church debate over whether to allow married men to become priests.

"I can not 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.

When Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger, became the first pope in more than 700 years to stand down as head of the Catholic Church in 2013, he vowed that he would remain "hidden from the world". In a 6,000-word essay released last April, the pope emeritus blamed the church's sex abuse scandal on the secularization of the West, the sexual revolution of the 1960s and more generally, "the absence of God".

"I can no longer be silent or feign ignorance", the emeritus pope said in the forward of the book, "From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Crisis of the Catholic Church".

"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.

In one passage, Sarah addresses the current pontiff directly: "I humbly beg Pope Francis to. veto any weakening of the law of priestly celibacy, even limited to one or the other region".

The implications for such an intervention are grave, and are likely to fuel renewed anxiety about the unprecedented situation of two popes, one retired and one reigning, living side by side in the Vatican gardens.

Benedict was the first pontiff to resign in 600 years and still lives within the walls of the Vatican.

Benedict's book could be considered a public attempt by the retired pope to sway the thinking of the current pope. "Secondly, I would say that I do not agree with permitting optional celibacy, no", Francis said on January 28, 2019.

"From that "I can not be silent" we must deduce that those who claimed that there are two popes, seven years after Benedict XVI's abdication, were right", said Italian journalist Fabrizio Grasso in an interview with Religion News Service (Jan. 13).

The surprise move is seen as a rebuke to Pope Francis, who is weighing the possibility of a revolutionary move to relax the strict celibacy requirement for ordination in some South American countries where the shortage of priests is particularly acute.

In the book, the two men not only defend the Western Church's long tradition of a celibate priesthood, but also complain about media manipulation of the synodal process.

What is the proposed change to priestly celibacy?

Catholic commentator and writer Peter Williams told Newsweek that nothing the former pope has said is contrary to Pope Francis's own stated position that "optional celibacy" for priests is off the table.

'It is urgent and necessary for everyone-bishops, priests and lay people-to stop letting themselves be intimidated by the wrong-headed pleas, the theatrical productions, the diabolical lies and the fashionable errors that try to put down priestly celibacy, ' they write.

A number of eastern churches in communion with Rome do not enforce celibacy while many married Anglican clergymen who became Catholics have been ordained priests.

The film stars Anthony Hopkins as Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as Francis - both received Oscar nominations on Monday for their roles. But although the film takes artistic liberties for the sake of narrative, it gets the point across that Francis and Benedict indeed have some very different ideas. "Let's pray for healing for the critics that they can rejoice in a new work from two great churchmen of our time, including a major theologian".

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