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Pope tells new priests to 'be perfect'

Days before the unprecedented Vatican summit on clergy sex abuse in the Church in the US, Pope John Paul II told 20 newly ordained priests yesterday that they must be perfect and adhere to a "higher loyalty".

While the Holy Father's exhortations were not unusual for an ordination ceremony such as yesterday's, they had symbolic significance ahead of this week's summit with 12 American cardinals and several bishops concerning the sex-abuse scandal roiling the Roman Catholic Church in America.

As the new priests gathered in St. Peter's Basilica, John Paul told them Jesus expects a "higher loyalty" from priests, a more rigorous poverty and humility.

"He asks of you to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect," he said. "In a word, the Lord wants you to be holy."

"If every vocation in the Church is in the service of holiness, some - such as the vocation of ordained ministry and the consecrated life - are that in a singular way," he said.

Church officials have said the American scandal has deeply affected the pope, who turns 82 next month, suffers from the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and recently has scaled back his participation in long ceremonies because of knee pain. By all accounts, the summit will be trying for John Paul, who plans to address the cardinals at its start and will spend as much time with them as possible, Vatican officials said.

Meanwhile on Saturday, the Pope told a group of visiting Nigerian bishops that priests must avoid scandalous behaviour and that bishops must investigate such behaviour and act to end it.

Pontiff Calls for Discipline in Clergy (Washington Post)


22 Apr 2002