Celibacy not an obstacle for priestly vocations, Vatican official says

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Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, dismissed the argument that celibacy prevents young men from joining the priesthood in today's society. 

“For the last fifty years it has been an almost cyclical trend to attack church celibacy,” the cardinal said, noting that the Church “should not betray young people by lowering ideals, but rather we should help them reach them.”

In comments to the website Religion Digital, Cardinal Piacenza called called celibacy an “extraordinary treasure” which is not simply “a church law” but rather a “gift” that enables priests to be deeply involved in their ministry.

He noted that celibacy is “particularly in harmony with the identity of the priest and his being configured to Christ” and “totally committed to the work of redemption.”

The cardinal also encouraged priests who have lost their zeal to deepen their prayer life and fraternal communion with their peers.

“The former puts us into continual contact with God and with origin and reason for our existence and our ministry,” he explained. “The latter is an essential aspect of a truly human existential experience, in which communion and fraternity are signs of the new life that Christ has inaugurated.”

He then reflected on the fulfillment and beauty of the priestly life, saying that “each day is new and each day the Lord has something great in store.”

“If we are realistic and honest with ourselves, we all understand that the gift of the priesthood flourishes in our hands day after day, year after year, and decades later, it shines forth in all its beauty, like we never would have imagined on the day of our blessed ordination,” he said.

Cardinal Piacenza additionally spoke of the concentrated efforts of Pope Benedict XVI to cleanse what the pontiff has called “filth” within the Church regarding sexual abuse. 

“We must always be vigilant, because purification is never-ending, simply because conversion is never-ending, and the fight against sin will last until the end of time,” he said.

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