John Paul II Hails "Inestimable Value" of Priestly Celibacy

Urges Vigilance Against the Seductions of the World

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II considers priestly celibacy of "inestimable value," and appealed for the support that priests need to show that Christ gives full meaning to their lives.



"In today's world, the question of ecclesiastical celibacy and chastity that derives from it continues to be, frequently, both for youth as for other faithful, a stumbling block, object of numerous misunderstandings in public opinion," the Pope said Saturday when receiving a group of French bishops. The bishops, from the ecclesiastical provinces of Montpellier and Toulouse, were ending their five-yearly visit to the Vatican.

In the audience, the Holy Father began by mentioning the faithfulness of so many priests, "who in this way show the world that Christ and the mission can fulfill a life."

Those lives, he said, are "a testimony of the absoluteness of God and a particularly fruitful participation in the building of the Church."

In fact, John Paul II said, "chastity in celibacy has an inestimable value. It constitutes an important key for the spiritual life of priests, for their commitment in the mission, and for their appropriate pastoral relation with the faithful, which should not be based on emotional aspects, but on the responsibility of his ministry."

For these reasons, the Holy Father invited priests "to be vigilant in the face of the seductions of the world and to make an examination of conscience regularly to live ever more profoundly fidelity to their commitment."

"Every attitude that goes against this teaching constitutes an anti-testimony for the Christian community and for all men," he said.

The Holy Father asked the bishops to support young priests especially who, like their contemporaries, "are characterized both by extraordinary enthusiasm as well as the frailties of their time."

"Appropriate psychological and spiritual assistance can also be shown to be necessary so that situations will not last that, with the passing of time, could become dangerous," he said.

"At the same time," the Pope added, "in the case of priests who have a way of life that does not conform to their state, it is necessary to invite them expressly to conversion."