“While respecting the different practice and tradition of the Eastern Churches,” the Holy Father said, “there is a need to reaffirm the profound meaning of priestly celibacy, which is rightly considered a priceless treasure, and is also confirmed by the Eastern practice of choosing Bishops only from the ranks of the celibate. These Churches also greatly esteem the decision of many priests to embrace celibacy.”
According to Pope Benedict, “this choice on the part of the priest expresses in a special way the dedication which conforms him to Christ and his exclusive offering of himself for the Kingdom of God. The fact that Christ himself, the eternal priest, lived his mission even to the sacrifice of the Cross in the state of virginity constitutes the sure point of reference for understanding the meaning of the tradition of the Latin Church.”
Not purely functional
The Holy Father reiterated that, “it is not sufficient to understand priestly celibacy in purely functional terms. Celibacy is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ's own way of life,” because, “this choice has first and foremost a nuptial meaning; it is a profound identification with the heart of Christ the Bridegroom who gives his life for his Bride.”
“Celibacy,” he said, “is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ's own way of life.”
“In continuity with the great ecclesial tradition, with the Second Vatican Council, and with my predecessors in the papacy, I reaffirm the beauty and the importance of a priestly life lived in celibacy as a sign expressing total and exclusive devotion to Christ, to the Church and to the Kingdom of God, and I therefore confirm that it remains obligatory in the Latin tradition.”
“Priestly celibacy lived with maturity, joy and dedication is an immense blessing for the Church and for society itself,” the Holy Father said.
The Holy Father also turned to, “the difficult situation that has arisen in various Dioceses which face a shortage of priests.”
“This happens,” the Pope lamented, “not only in some areas of first evangelization, but also in many countries of long-standing Christian tradition.”
The Holy Father noted that a more equitable distribution of clergy could help the situation and encouraged clergy members to, “become more open to serving the Church wherever there is need, even if this calls for sacrifice.”
“Bishops,” he added, “should involve Institutes of Consecrated Life and the new ecclesial groups in their pastoral needs, while respecting their particular charisms.”
“The Synod also discussed pastoral initiatives aimed at promoting, especially among the young, an attitude of interior openness to a priestly calling. The situation cannot be resolved by purely practical decisions.”
However, he added, “on no account should Bishops react to real and understandable concerns about the shortage of priests by failing to carry out adequate vocational discernment, or by admitting to seminary formation and ordination candidates who lack the necessary qualities for priestly ministry.”
“An insufficiently formed clergy, admitted to ordination without the necessary discernment, will not easily be able to offer a witness capable of evoking in others the desire to respond generously to Christ's call. The pastoral care of vocations needs to involve the entire Christian community in every area of its life. Obviously, this pastoral work on all levels also includes exploring the matter with families, which are often indifferent or even opposed to the idea of a priestly vocation. Families should generously embrace the gift of life and bring up their children to be open to doing God's will. In a word, they must have the courage to set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, showing them how deeply rewarding it is,” he said.
To read the document in its entirety, click the CNA link here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=153
.- In his Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist today, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that priestly celibacy remains obligatory in the Latin tradition as a means of attempting to achieve, “complete configuration to Christ.”