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Cardinal Pell: Ending Celibacy Rule Would Be a Blunder

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 2005 (Zenit.org).- It would be a "serious error" for the Latin-rite Catholic Church to lose the tradition of priestly celibacy, Cardinal George Pell warned the Synod of Bishops. The archbishop of Sydney, Australia, said that in his country, as well as in New Zealand, there is a decline in the number of priestly vocations, and confusion is evident in the proliferation of Communion services. "My recommendations to the synod on how to deal with these 'shadows' presuppose the maintenance in the Latin Church of the ancient tradition and life-giving discipline of mandatory celibacy for the diocesan clergy as well as the religious orders," affirmed the cardinal. "Losing this tradition now would be a serious error, which would provoke confusion in the mission areas and would not strengthen spiritual vitality in the First World," he stressed. "It would be a departure from the practice of the Lord himself, bring significant practical disadvantages to the work of the Church, and weaken the sign value of the priesthood," the Australian cardinal continued. "It would weaken, too, the witness to loving sacrifice, and to the reality of the Last Things, and the rewards of heaven. "We should remember the situation of the Church 500 years ago, just before the Reformation, a small weak community separated from the East. The enormous expansion since then and the purification of Church leadership, imperfect but substantial, were achieved primarily under grace, through the lives of celibate sisters, brothers and priests." "The recent sexual scandals have not invalidated these gains," he continued. Unnecessary substitutions Regarding the proliferation of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, the cardinal asked the synod "to draw up a further list of suggestions and criteria to regulate the celebration of Communion services, especially on Sundays." "'Liturgies awaiting a priest' is a better title than 'priestless liturgies,'" he said. "There is no such thing as 'lay-led liturgy,' because lay people can only lead devotional prayers and para-liturgies." Cardinal Pell, 64, applauded the suggestion of Coadjutor Bishop Pierre-Antoine Paulo, of Port-de-Paix, Haiti, who suggested to the synod that the title "special ministers of holy Communion" be used instead of "ministers of the Eucharist." "Communion services or Liturgies of the Word should not be substituted for Mass, when priests are available," Cardinal Pell said. "Such unnecessary substitutions are often not motivated by a hunger for the Bread of Life, but by ignorance and confusion or even by hostility to the ministerial priesthood and the sacraments," he contended. "To what extent are regular celebrations of Communion services, Sunday after Sunday, a genuine development or distortion, a Protestantization, which risks confusing even regular churchgoers?" the cardinal asked. Isidro Catela, a synod spokesman, explained that none of the Latin-rite bishops who have addressed the synod have proposed changes in the discipline of clerical celibacy. Catela clarified that the only ones who have spoken about the ordination of married priests as a richness have been bishops and patriarchs of the Eastern Churches united to Rome, where there are married priests. In these Churches, however, the bishops must be celibate.