The Vatican released a short statement at the conclusion of Pope Benedict XVI’s three hour meeting with heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia today. The statement confirmed the Church’s adherence to the discipline of priestly celibacy for Latin Rite priests.
In a simple statement, the Vatican said, “The value of the choice of priestly celibacy, according to Catholic tradition, has been reaffirmed, and the need for solid human and Christian training, for seminarians as well as already ordained priests, has been reiterated.”
The Holy See had stressed that Thursday's summit would not open up debate on celibacy, but would instead examine requests for dispensation made by priests wishing to marry and requests for readmission by clergy who had married in recent years, according to the AP.
The three-hour meeting's conclusions "were not a change in how the present rules (on celibacy) are applied," Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, told the AP by phone today.
Despite the projections of many in the press, the meeting yielded "no change in the current discipline" of the church on the celibacy requirement, he said.
The meeting was announced earlier this week as an opportunity for the Pope to meet with leaders of the Church’s various offices, “in order to examine the situation that has arisen following the disobedience of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, and to reflect upon requests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy and requests for readmission to the priestly ministry, presented by married priests over the course of recent years.”
Milingo is the now excommunicated former Archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia who has continued to draw attention after abandoning his commitment to priestly celibacy as well as a promise made to Pope John Paul II. After sneaking away from his home in Italy, Milingo has surface in the United States, where he began a campaign to end the celibacy requirement for Catholic Priests and illicitly ordained four married men as bishops.
Catholic priests of the Latin Rite promise to be celibate (unmarried and chaste) for life. While the celibacy requirement is considered a discipline and not an unchangeable doctrine, the Church has consistently held that it is an important rule, which will not be changed.
Several Vatican watchers say a final decision on the Holy See’s handling of Milingo will be forthcoming.