Tendency for Priests Is Toward Celibacy, Says Egyptian Bishop

Notes Experience With Eastern Catholic Clergy

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- When priests are given the choice between marriage and celibacy, the tendency is to choose celibacy, at least according to the experience of the bishop of Cairo of the Chaldeans.

Bishop Youssef Ibrahim Sarraf said this today in response to a question concerning married priests at a press conference to present the final message of the synod on Africa.

The question was asked in light of the announcement this week that Benedict XVI will publish an apostolic constitution that will allow groups of Anglicans seeking communion with the Church to do so through personal ordinariates.

Within it, Anglican married priests will be allowed to be ordained as priests in the Catholic Church and to exercise their ministry maintaining their married family life.

The journalist asked if the introduction of former Anglican, married priests to the Church would cause celibate Catholic priests to stray.

The bishop of Cairo noted in his response that in Egypt, married Catholic priests belonging to the Eastern Catholic Churches and celibate priests coexist without problems.

He also said that even where the ordination of married priests is allowed, there is a tendency to celibacy that many priests embrace voluntarily.

"This doesn't create problems," the bishop clarified. "It's something that is absolutely normal.

"The tendency is rather to celibacy, but not the contrary, at least according to the experience in Egypt."

Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, president of the commission given the responsibility to write the synod's final message, said that the dispensation of celibacy to former Anglican priests would "not have a fundamental impact" on the clergy in Africa.

[Reporting by By Carmen Elena Villa]