Oceania bishops plead case for married clergy

Bishops from Papua New Guinea and Guam have taken part in a spirited debate about the link between the celibacy rule and the priest shortage that often denies the faithful access to the Eucharist.

Catholic News Agency reports that Bishop Arnold Orowae, Coadjutor of Wabag, Papua New Guinea, said the "real saving and transforming presence of Jesus in the Eucharist" is a vital aspect of the Catholic faith, and "experiences of injustice, violence, corruption, poverty, etc., show that there is a separation between the Eucharist and life".

He referred specifically to communities who live in the remote villages that do not have the opportunity for frequent celebration and reception of the Eucharist.

"The issue", he said, "is not having more vocations, but justice and equality for all the children of God, having the right to make the Eucharist the centre of their lives by celebrating and receiving it as often as they can."

"Should the Church", he asked, "allow for mature Christian men who are strong in faith, very committed, and have the respect of the people, to be easily trained to preside at the Eucharistic celebration, which will make it easy for the people to participate in the Eucharist, so that the importance and centrality of the Eucharist becomes true for the people?"

Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agana, Guam, said that the scarcity of priests, and the aggressiveness of the evangelistic sects, are challenging the very survival of the Catholic faith.

He related the lack of visibility of the Church to difficulties in access to the Eucharist.

"I urge leaders of the Church today, to do everything possible to help people come to really know Jesus Christ through the signs of the Eucharist and the reality they signify," he said.

But Cardinal Adrianus Simonis from Utrecht, in the Netherlands, stressed witness, and the "sacrificial" aspect of the priesthood, insisting that the ordination of married men is not a solution to the Church's problems.

"Isn't celibate priesthood, or religious life, a witness of this fundamental institution? That means that we sould live more in the Eucharist to prepare the way to rediscover the value of the Eucharist," He concluded.

Married men to be ordained? Not a solution says Cardinal Simonis (Catholic News Agency 6/10/05)

7 Oct 2005