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Brazilian cardinal urges Roman Catholic Church to allow priests to marry

By Tales Azzoni

1:52 p.m. December 3, 2006

SAO PAULO, Brazil – An influential Brazilian cardinal says the Roman Catholic Church should reconsider its ban on allowing priests to marry.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who was recently named to head the Vatican's office in charge of priests around the world, made the comment about two weeks after the Holy See reaffirmed the requirement of celibacy for priests.

“Celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma of the church,” Hummes was quoted as saying by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. “Certainly, the majority of the apostles were married. In this modern age, the church must observe these things, it has to advance with history.”

A Vatican spokesman could not be reached for comment Sunday. But the Vatican has strongly resisted calls for relaxing its celibacy rule.

Former Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo of Zambia is among those campaigning to change the policy.

Milingo was excommunicated in September when he ordained four married American men as bishops in defiance of the Vatican. He already had angered the Vatican in 2001 when he wed a South Korean woman in a group ceremony of the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Last year, one of France's most respected Catholic figures, Abbe Pierre, wrote that he favored allowing priests to marry. In 2003, more than 160 priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese in Wisconsin signed a letter supporting married clergy.

Early Christianity had no formal ban on marriage for clergy. The Bible mentions St. Peter's mother-in-law and many scholars suggest other apostles had wives – as well as at least some popes, such as the 9th century Hadrian II.

In the early Middle Ages, however, movements for celibacy gained momentum and it became a requirement by the 12th century.

Most groups estimate the Roman Catholic Church has lost 100,000 to 150,000 clergy around the world who left the active priesthood to marry. The church considers them outcasts.

Hummes, who heads the diocese of Sao Paulo, was expected to leave for the Vatican late Sunday to attend a ceremony naming him as the new prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy – the office in charge of priests.

The 72-year-old cardinal was seen as a potential Third World candidate for the papacy in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI last year.

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No Catholic change on celibacy: Brazil cardinal

By Philip Pullella
Monday, December 4, 2006; 9:50 AM

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A Brazilian cardinal recently named to head the Vatican department overseeing the world's Catholic priests on Monday played down a remark he made suggesting the Church might review its insistence on celibacy.

"I have no new doctrine on priestly celibacy. I just say what the doctrine of the Church says. Obviously, it is the Pope who guides the Church," said Cardinal Claudio Hummes.

Hummes was talking to reporters at Rome airport after comments on celibacy he made at the weekend in Brazil caused a stir in the Italian media, major newspapers putting them on their front pages.

"Even though celibates are part of Catholic history and culture, the Church can reflect on the issue because celibacy is not a dogma but a form of discipline," he was quoted as saying in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper.

But at the airport and later in a statement issued by the Vatican press office, Hummes played down the interview, saying the Church was not considering any change for the time being. Hummes is the former archbishop of Sao Paolo.

"It is also clear that the celibacy norm for priests in the Latin (Western) Church is very ancient and rests on a consolidated tradition with strong motivations of both a theological-spiritual nature and a practical and pastoral one that has been reaffirmed by the popes," he said.

"Therefore, the issue is not right now part of the agenda for Church authorities ..." his statement said.

Priests were permitted to marry during the first millennium, but marriage was condemned by the Church at the Second Lateran Council in 1139.

The Roman Catholic Church insists that its priests remain celibate and has ruled out letting them marry, which advocates say would make some men more willing to join the priesthood and ease the shortage of priests in many parts of the world.

Last month the Vatican reaffirmed celibacy for priests after Pope Benedict and top aides held a special meeting to discuss requests by married priests to return to the active ministry.

Celibacy has re-emerged as a hot issue in the Church in the past few months, since African Archbishop Emanuel Milingo founded a movement of men who left the active ministry to wed and want to return as married men.

Milingo, a former Vatican official, raised the specter of a modern schism when he ordained four married men as priests in Washington D.C. in September. The Vatican excommunicated him.

Milingo rejects his excommunication and is planning a convention for more than 1,000 married priests -- and their wives -- in New York for December 8-10.

Pope Benedict appointed Hummes in October to head the Congregation for the Clergy, which oversees matters regarding the 400,000 Catholic priests and some aspects of religious education.

(additional reporting by Andrei Khalip in Rio de Janeiro)

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