Married and secularised Italian priests are urging Pope Francis “not to be intimidated” by the Pope Benedict-Cardinal Sarah conspiracy and to push ahead with optional priestly celibacy.

Driving the news

The ultraconservative “operation bookgate” that blew up this week was designed by ultraconservative Sarah, and his cronies, to stop Pope Francis implementing the Amazon Synod recommendation to ordain married men to cover the lack of priests in remote areas.

But in the midst of the fiasco, the Italian ‘Vocatio’ movement – made up of men who left the priesthood to marry – published a statement begging Bergoglio not to be swayed by the conspiracies and negativity, and to carry through with the plan to implement optional priestly celibacy.

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“Our movement, which has always been committed to the admission of the optional celibacy for priests in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, had welcomed the opening – however timid and limited – to married priests in rare cases in remote communities in the Amazon”, the organisers of ‘Vocatio’, Rosario Mocciaro and Samuele Ciambriello, wrote in their statement.

That was in reference to the majority Synod recommendation of the ordination in the Amazon of viri probati – “suitable and respected men of the community with a legitimately constituted and stable family, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood”, as the final Synod document put it.

Why it matters

It’s a recommendation ‘Vocatio’ believes Benedict XVI has now “tripped up”, “with the clear intention of opposing the implementation of a ‘proposal’ of the Amazonian Synod that provides for the possible ordination to the priesthood of married deacons”.

What’s more, the members of ‘Vocatio’ accuse the Pope Emeritus of exercising “open interference and pressure on Pope Francis to try to prevent him from carrying out the possible implementation of that ‘council’ of the Synod celebrated in October”.

Not only that, but the ‘Vocatio’ movement also said Benedict and Sarah’s anti-optional celibacy stance “contrasts openly with the Catholic Church’s own practice”.

In the Catholic Church, ‘Vocatio’ recalled, “there are already many married priests, not only in the Catholic communities of the Eastern Rite, but also in the Catholic communities of the Latin Rite [in the Anglican ordinariates], who have been allowed to exercise religious ministry while being married”.

Next on Novena:

Italy experiences “wonderful gift” of married priests

Belgian cardinal says he “cannot exclude” that married men are called to priesthood

Vienna auxiliary bishop supports easing compulsory priestly celibacy

Vocal Synod critic Cardinal Müller once backed married priests

New Luxembourg cardinal, on married priests: “Why not?”

Novena exclusive: Danail Hristov, author and researcher: “Celibacy: a godsend or a life-undermining practice?”

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.