Cardinal Reinhard Marx has confirmed a possible easing of compulsory celibacy for priests is being discussed at this month’s Amazon Synod in Rome.

Driving the news

The president of the German Bishops’ Conference and Synod attendee by special papal appointment was asked by journalists Wednesday in Berlin whether the topic of optional priestly celibacy had come up in Synod discussions.

“More than I expected”, the cardinal replied.


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Go deeper

News of possible changes to the Church’s traditional discipline of priestly continence have dominated Synod headlines.

One such headline even suggested, on the basis of a Brazilian bishop’s estimate, that as many as two-thirds of Synod voters could be open to relaxing the celibacy rule and also of opening the priesthood to women.

Nevertheless, Cardinal Marx said discussions weren’t about abolishing celibacy completely.

Instead, talks have been about considering changes in individual cases, with the goal of ensuring a ready availability of sacraments in the Amazon region.

Marx added that greater involvement of women in the Church is “necessary and overdue”.

“Even the diaconate”, he said, adding that calls to admit women as deacons have come not only from Germany but also from Amazon countries.

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The big picture

Apart from the Amazon Synod, Marx also referred in his encounter with the press to other aspects of Church current affairs.

He said he hoped for a new system of compensations for clergy sex abuse survivors would be approved by the German Bishops “in the coming months”.

The cardinal added that he been “deeply shaken” by the recent shooting at a synagogue in Halle.

“We must do everything possible to overcome all tendencies towards hatred and anti-Semitism,” Marx stressed, adding that “the message of the Church must be clear: ‘We will never be separated from our Jewish brothers and sisters'”.

The cardinal furthermore deplored the rise of right-wing populism in different countries around the world, and said the “brutalisation of language” in political debates and on social media had become “extremely disturbing”.

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