October 23, 2005

Pope reaffirms priestly celibacy, makes new saints

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict reaffirmed the Roman
Catholic rule of priestly celibacy on Sunday, rejecting
suggestions that the way to confront the Church's shortage of
priests was to allow them to marry.

Speaking at the first canonisation ceremony of his
six-month pontificate, he also expressed solidarity with the
Church in China, where the communist government does not allow
Catholics to openly recognize the Pope and the Vatican.

The new saints of the Church proclaimed by the Pope on
Sunday at an open-air mass in an unusually fog-shrouded Peter's
Square included two Italians, a Chilean and two Poles.

In his homily, the Pope pulled no punches on the issue of
priestly celibacy, one of the main themes of a three-week synod
that closed with Sunday's mass.

"The celibacy that priests received as a precious gift and
the sign of the undivided love toward God and neighbor is
founded upon the Eucharistic Mystery, celebrated and adored,"
he told tens of thousands of people.

The shortage of priests to serve the 1.1 billion-member
Church dominated the synod, whose more than 250 participants
drafted proposals for the Pope on a number of Church matters.

Liberals such as the "We Are Church" dissident group have
said the long-term solution to the shortage was making celibacy
optional for new priests by allowing them to marry.

Some bishops suggested the Church ordain "viri probati,"
the Latin term for older, married men with families who are
known to lead exemplary personal lives in their communities and
have a solid background in Church doctrine.

The Pope said lay Catholics had to show their faith
clearly, saying "no dichotomy is admissible between faith and
life." One question in the synod was how to deal with Catholic
politicians who back abortion, which the Church considers


In his homily, the Pope also sent "a fraternal greeting" to
the Church in China, saying its suffering would not be in vain.

"With deep sadness we felt the lack of their
representatives," Benedict said, referring to the four bishops
who were prevented from attending the synod.

"I would like to assure all the Chinese prelates that we
are close with prayer to them and to their priests and their
faithful," he said. "The suffering path of the communities,
entrusted to their pastoral care, is present in our hearts.
This will not remain fruitless ..."

China refuses to allow the Vatican to appoint bishops,
saying this would be interference in its internal affairs, and
it refuses to allow Catholics to recognize the authority of the
Pope. Instead, they must belong to a state-backed church known
as the Catholic Patriotic Association.

The Vatican estimates it has about 8 million followers in
China who worship in the "underground Church," compared with
some 5 million who follow the state-backed association.

China has had no diplomatic ties with the Vatican since
1951, two years after the Communist takeover.

The five new saints of the Church were Jozef Bilczewski
(1860-1923), a Polish archbishop who worked in Ukraine; Gaetano
Catanoso (1879-1963), an Italian priest who dedicated his life
to helping the poor in southern Italy; Zygmunt Gorazdowski
(1845-1920), a Polish priest who worked in Ukraine; Alberto
Hurtado Cruchaga (1901-1952), a Chilean priest who helped the
poor, and Felice Da Nicosia (1715-1787), an Italian monk who
had a reputation for holiness despite his illiteracy.