Pope Benedict XVI defends celibacy priesthood

epa05908637 (FILE) Pope Francis (R) greets Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (L) prior to leading the Holy Mass for the Elderly in Saint Peter's square in Vatican City, Vatican, 28 September 2014 (reissued 15 April 2017). The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned on 28 February 2013, celebrates his 90th birthday on Easter Sunday, 16 April 2017. EPA/MAURIZIO BRAMBATTI

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Retired Pope Benedict XVI has coauthored a new book defending the Catholic Church’s practice of a celibate priesthood, in a shocking move that comes as Pope Francis is considering the possibility of allowing older, married men to be ordained as priests in the Amazon region.

According to excerpts from the volume released Jan. 12 by the conservative French outlet Le Figaro, the ex-pontiff says he could not remain silent on the issue as Francis is contemplating the move, which was requested by the bishops from the nine-nation Amazon region at October’s Vatican synod gathering.

Although the volume is yet to be seen in full, it appears to signify something as yet unexperienced in the two millennia history of the Catholic Church: a retired pope openly weighing in on something currently under consideration by his successor, the reigning pontiff.

One noted theologian reached shortly after the release of the excerpts called Benedict’s decision to write on the issue a “serious breach.”

“It interferes with a synodal process that is still unfolding after the Amazon synod … and threatens to limit the freedom of the one pope,” said Massimo Faggioli, a historian and theologian at Villanova University.


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