Christian News from Scotland

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Vatican stands by celibacy

The Vatican has backed the tradition of celibacy for Catholic priests after a meeting between the Pope and advisers.

The Pope and his cardinals discussed the case of a married African archbishop, excommunicated last year for ordaining other married priests. "The value of the choice of priestly celibacy... has been reaffirmed," the Vatican said in a statement.

Thousands of the Catholic Church's 400,000 priests worldwide have left in order to marry in recent years.

The Pope had called together all his top advisers - the cardinals heading different Vatican departments - to discuss the case of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the former head of the Roman Catholic Church in Zambia.

Emmanuel Milingo was excommunicated last month after ordaining four married priests as bishops in the United States. The former archbishop married a Korean woman and after first agreeing to leave her, is now cohabiting with her again. He set up an organisation called "Married Priests Now" and plans to hold a meeting of more than 1,000 married Catholic priests in New York next month.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says the average age of priests is well over 60 and in many countries new recruits to the priesthood, inhibited by the celibacy rule, are not coming forward in sufficient numbers to replace the older generation of Catholic clergy.

Eastern rite Catholic priests are allowed to marry and the Vatican has also admitted married clergy who converted from the Anglican faith.

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