World

Vatican reaffirms celibacy for priests

The Pope and top Vatican officials have reconfirmed the Catholic Church's rule of celibacy for priests after considering an excommunicated archbishop's demand that it be dropped.

Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials have reconfirmed the Catholic Church's rule of celibacy for priests after considering an excommunicated archbishop's demand that it be dropped.

The statement came after Vatican prelates and the Pope met for three hours on Thursday toexamine requests for dispensationand requests for readmission by clergy members who had married in recent years.

The Vatican had already said the policy itself was not open for debate, but that the meeting was called to examine the implications of "disobedience" by excommunicated Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and a movement he founded,Married Priests Now.

"The value of the choice of priestly celibacy, according to Catholic tradition, has been reaffirmed," the Vatican saidin a brief statement after the meeting.

Milingo, who is married, was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church in September when he ordained four married American men as bishops despite being expressly forbidden to do so by the Vatican.

The move not only defied the policy of mandatory celibacy but also Vatican teaching that the authority to name bishops rests with the Pope.

The Vatican also excommunicated the four bishops and they now claim affiliation with the breakaway Synod of Old Catholic Churches.

Milingo wanted the church to drop the demand that clergy be celibate. As well, he demanded that men who left the priesthood to marry be allowed to return.

Milingo argues thatthe Church should embrace the more than 150,000 married priests worldwide —in part to ease the ongoing clergy shortage and to elevate the sanctity of marriage.

About a thousand of these priests and their wives plan a convention in New York City in December.

When Milingo was excommunicated, several Vatican observers said the Holy See was worried about the possibility that the archbishop, with the power to ordain bishops and priests, could start a schism.

With files from the Associated Press