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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 October 2005, 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK
Bishops reject married priesthood
Cardinals and bishops at the Eucharistic Adoration during the synod at St Peter's Basilica
Bishops said celibacy in the clergy was a "priceless gift"
Catholic bishops say the Church is suffering from a worldwide shortage of priests, but say allowing marriage is not the answer.

Instead, the 250 prelates meeting in the Vatican, reaffirmed the principle of celibacy within the clergy.

They also called on lawmakers to protect marriage and the family, and outlaw abortion and euthanasia.

Their three-week gathering or synod, which closed with 50 proposals, was the first since Pope Benedict's election.

'Massive restatement'

"The lack of priests to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist worries us a great deal and invites us to pray and more actively promote vocations," they said in an official declaration.

One bishop from Honduras illustrated the problem by saying he had only one priest for every 16,000 Catholics in his diocese.

Liberal Catholics have suggested that the key to the shortage was making celibacy optional for new priests.

But the bishops' statement called celibacy a "priceless gift" and dismissed the idea of married priests.

Cardinal George Pell of Australia told a news conference the vote was a "massive restatement" of the church's celibacy rule.

The Pope may use the 50 propositions for a possible future document.


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