Today: December 04, 2006 at 7:10:10 PST
By Frances D'Emilo
Vatican City (AP)
A Brazilian cardinal who appeared to suggest the Vatican was open to revising its celibacy requirement for priests stressed Monday the question was not on the Holy See's agenda and contended that allowing them to marry wouldn't solve the clergy shortage.
Cardinal Claudio Hummes issued a statement on the day he arrived in Italy to take up a senior Vatican post in charge of priests worldwide.
On Friday, in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, Fohla de S. Paulo, Hummes noted that celibacy was not church dogma but a rule, sparking some speculation, including in the Italian media which the Vatican closely follows, that the Holy See might relax its requirement that Latin rite priests be celibate.
The Vatican press office's release of the statement as Hummes was heading to the his new post indicated that the Holy See wanted to dampen any more such speculation.
Revising the requirement of celibacy "is not currently on the agenda of church authorities, as recently restated after the last reunion of (Vatican) department heads with the Holy Father," Hummes said in his statement.
He was referring to a summit, led by Pope Benedict XVI two weeks earlier, which reiterated the value of the requirement of celibacy for priests and made clear the policy wasn't about to be changed.
The Vatican summit was a response to former Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, a renegade married clergymen from Zambia who is leading a high-profile crusade in the United States for the Roman Catholic Church to allow priests to wed.
Men in the Eastern rite of the Catholic church who are married can become priests, and the Vatican has accepted into the priesthood some married Anglican priests who converted to Catholicism.
In the statement issued by the Vatican, Hummes that it was "clear that the rule of celibacy for priests in the Latin church is very ancient and is based on a consolidated tradition and strong motivations ... reiterated by popes as well."
The cardinal described the motivations as theological, spiritual, pastoral and practical.
Hummes said that among a recent gathering of bishops, "the most widely held opinion was that loosening the rule on celibacy would not be a solution, not even to the problem of the scarcity of vocations, which is to be linked, rather, to other causes, starting with the modern secularized culture."
In the newspaper interview, Hummes said: "Certainly, the majority of the apostles were married. In this modern age, the church must observe these things, it has to advance with history."
Married priests were permitted in the church in its early centuries.