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Priests should be celibate, says Pope Benedict XVI

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Pope Francis, left, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, meet each other on the occasion of the elevation of five new cardinals
Pope Francis, left, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, meet each other on the occasion of the elevation of five new cardinals   -   Copyright  L'Osservatore Romano/Pool photo via AP   -   L'Osservatore Romano
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Retired Pope Benedict XVI has come out strongly against Catholic priests being allowed to marry as the current pontiff, Pope Francis, weighs whether to allow married men to be ordained.

Benedict has published a book, From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church, along with his fellow conservative, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who has been a quiet critic of Francis.

''The priesthood of Jesus Christ causes us to enter into a life that consists of becoming one with him and renouncing all that belongs only to us,`'' Benedict writes.

``''For priests, this is the foundation of the necessity of celibacy but also of liturgical prayer, meditation on the Word of God and the renunciation of material goods.''

Marriage, he writes, requires man to give himself totally to his family.

''Since serving the Lord likewise requires the total gift of a man, it does not seem possible to carry on the two vocations simultaneously. Thus, the ability to renounce marriage so as to place oneself totally at the Lord's disposition became a criterion for priestly ministry.''

The conclusion of the book makes the case even stronger, acknowledging the crisis of the Catholic priesthood that it says has been ''wounded by the revelation of so many scandals, disconcerted by the constant questioning of their consecrated celibacy.''

The French daily Le Figaro published excerpts of the book late Sunday. The Associated Press obtained galleys of the English edition, which is being published by Ignatius Press.

Significance

Benedict's intervention is unusual given he had promised to remain ''hidden from the world'' when he retired in 2013, and pledged his obedience to the new pope.

He has largely held to that pledge, though he penned an odd essay last year on the sexual abuse scandal that blamed the crisis on the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

His reaffirmation of priestly celibacy, however, gets to the heart of a fraught policy issue that Francis is expected to weigh in on in the coming weeks, and could well be considered a public attempt by the former pope to sway the thinking of the current one.

Francis has said he would write a document based on the outcome of the October 2019 synod of bishops on the Amazon.

A majority of bishops at the meeting called for the ordination of married men to address the priest shortage in the Amazon, where the faithful can go months without having a Mass.

While Francis has long reaffirmed the gift of a celibate priesthood in the Latin rite church, he has stressed that celibacy is a tradition, not doctrine, and therefore can change.