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At Vatican prayer vigil, Pope defends priestly celibacy

June 11, 2010

An estimated 15,000 priests, representing 97 different nations, joined in a prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square on Thursday evening, June 10, as the Year for Priests drew toward its conclusion.

In his remarks to the assembly, Pope Benedict XVI offered a spirited defense of clerical celibacy, saying that the decision to forego marriage shows that priests are oriented toward a different life, "in which we are beyond matrimony." He contrasted the celibate priest with the modern man who avoids marriage out of fear of commitment. For the priest, the Pope observed, celibacy is a very strong commitment: a witness to the faith that life in Christ is more important than life on earth. That witness, he added, is puzzling to a secularized world that cannot look beyond this present life.

Pope Benedict's remarks came in response to questions solicited from the priests who had come to Rome, in answer to his invitation, for the final days of the Year for Priests. Answering one question about encouraging new priestly vocations, the Pope cautioned against an "activist" approach, saying that prayer is more important than recruitment programs. The danger to be avoided, he said, is the notion that the priesthood is "just another job." Prior to the Pope's arrival, the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, had addressed the assembly, and several speakers gave personal testimonies. The evening vigil concluded with a period of Eucharistic adoration in St. Peter's Square and the singing of the Salve Regina.


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