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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 16:15 GMT
Vatican stands by celibacy ruling
Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and his wife
Ex-Archbishop Milingo married, then renounced, then returned to his wife
The Vatican has backed the tradition of celibacy for Catholic priests after a meeting between the Pope and advisers.

The Pope and his cardinals discussed the case of a married African archbishop, excommunicated last year for ordaining other married priests.

"The value of the choice of priestly celibacy... has been reaffirmed," the Vatican said in a statement.

Thousands of the Catholic Church's 400,000 priests worldwide have left in order to marry in recent years.

Ageing clergy

The Pope had called together all his top advisers - the cardinals heading different Vatican departments - to discuss the case of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the former head of the Roman Catholic Church in Zambia.

He was excommunicated last month after ordaining four married priests as bishops in the United States.

The former archbishop married a Korean woman and after first agreeing to leave her, is now cohabiting with her again.

He set up an organisation called "Married Priests Now" and plans to hold a meeting of more than 1,000 married Catholic priests in New York next month.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says the average age of priests is well over 60 and in many countries new recruits to the priesthood, inhibited by the celibacy rule, are not coming forward in sufficient numbers to replace the older generation of Catholic clergy.

Eastern rite Catholic priests can be ordained if they are married, and the Vatican has also admitted married clergy who converted from the Anglican faith, our correspondent says.

Zambian cleric returns home
06 Dec 02 |  Africa

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