A new Austrian bishop has said he sees “many reasons” for the abolition of compulsory priestly celibacy.

Driving the news

Josef Marketz, who December 3 was named by Pope Francis as the new Bishop of Gurk-Klagenfurt, made the comments in an interview Saturday with the Kleine Zeitung.

“Not so much because every man absolutely needs a woman next to him, but I see the loneliness of many old priests whose own family is often gone”, explained Marketz, the 64-year-old director of diocesan Caritas and episcopal vicar, as to his reasons why the discipline of compulsory continence for priests is in need of revision.

“Without a family of one’s own, it becomes very difficult to live in a dignified way, and there are many reasons for the abolition of celibacy”, the new bishop insisted.

The big picture

Marketz – who is the first ethnic Slovenian to take up a position as bishop in Austria – takes over in Gurk-Klagenfurt from Bishop Alois Schwarz, who was translated to the Diocese of Sankt Pölten in July 2018.

A diocesan working group accused Schwarz of various “problems and questions” over his 17-year tenure at the helm of the Gurk-Klagenfurt diocese, including multi-million euro financial losses, an affair with a woman and a “negative working atmosphere” among priests and diocesan employees.

Marketz’s appointment by the Pope to Gurk-Klagenfurt is highly significant in that Francis in September promised a group of local laypeople to personally “seek a solution” for the diocese after Schwarz’s rocky rule.

Commenting on his predecessor’s controversial legacy, Marketz urged Schwarz to “size up and apologise” for the irregularities of which he stands accused.

Go deeper

Also on life after Bishop Schwarz, Marketz said it was important for the Carinthian Church to regain “credibility”, to which task he pledged himself “100%”.

The bishop-designate added that he wants to exercise his ministry in the spirit of Pope Francis, as a “modest priest” and “poor friend” of the people.

“Therefore, I do not want to move into the bishop’s house, but continue to live among the people as before”, Marketz explained, adding that it is a “great concern” of his to be able to live “reasonably normally”.

“I am very aware of the moral claim of this service, and I will try to do justice to it”, the new bishop insisted.

Marketz also explained that another priority for him as bishop will be the “social question”: the “people who do not have the same opportunities as myself and others in society”.

It is important that society’s vulnerable and disadvantaged be given the chance to live a dignified life, the bishop-designate concluded.

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