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Priestly celibacy reaffirmed

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials, meeting to review the status of married priests, reaffirmed the value of priestly celibacy and said its importance should be highlighted among priests and seminarians.

At the same time, the participants examined the possibility of the return to active ministry of some priests who may have left the priesthood to marry but who now meet certain conditions, a Vatican statement said.

The Pope presided over the three-hour meeting of more than 20 heads of Vatican congregations and councils on November 16.

The Vatican encounter was triggered by the case of Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who recently was excommunicated after he ordained four married men as bishops without papal permission.

The Vatican statement, issued a few hours after the meeting, made no mention of Archbishop Milingo.

It said the participants were given updated information on requests by priests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy and on the possibility of readmission for priests who “meet the conditions foreseen by the Church”.

In recent years, the Vatican has approved the return to active ministry for some priests who left to marry in civil ceremonies, but who later divorced or were widowed and petitioned for readmission.

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