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Pope says no to wholesale change on priestly celibacy, but sees room for exceptions

Pope Francis has offered some clarity about how far he’ll go on the issue of married priests. Speaking to reporters aboard his flight from Panama to Rome Jan. 27, the pope said he did not agree with those who want to make priestly celibacy “optional” throughout the Latin-rite church. The pope was asked whether he could envision the Catholic Church adopting the practice of Orthodox Churches, in which priestly candidates can choose whether to marry or remain celibate – a choice made before they are ordained as deacons. “My decision is: optional celibacy before the diaconate, no,” the pope said. “That is what I think. I will not do it and this remains clear. Am I closed minded? Perhaps, but I d

New role of laity is key issue in sex abuse summit

There are signs that Vatican officials preparing the February summit on sex abuse hope the event will launch a new role for Catholic laity. That would be a significant development in a scandal that, as Pope Francis himself has said, has been perpetuated by clericalism. At first glance, the Feb. 21-24 summit looks like another “bishops monitoring the bishops” event. But planners have quietly taken steps to involve lay experts, and are signaling a more open approach to lay authority and supervision when it comes to dealing with accusations of clerical sex abuse. In a recent interview with America magazine, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, one of the meeting’s organizers, said the need for

Tweets, clicks and photostreams

Pope Francis’ love-hate relationship with social media was on display this month. On Jan. 20, appearing before pilgrims at his weekly blessing, he tapped a tablet to launch a “Click to Pray” app that allows people to share prayer intentions and (virtually) pray with each other. The pope called social networks “a resource of our time” that gives people a way to “share values and projects.” But a few days later, the 82-year-old pope sounded a different tune in his annual message for World Communications Day. He said social media too often tend to divide people and encourage a worrisome trend toward narcissism: Moreover, in the social web identity is too often based on opposition to the other,

Transparency must be tackled at Vatican abuse summit, moderator says

The moderator of the Vatican’s upcoming summit on sex abuse has underlined several crucial themes for the four-day meeting, including the need for greater accountability and transparency by bishops. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the former Vatican spokesman tapped by Pope Francis to chair the Feb. 21-24 summit, said past cover-ups by church officials have been the cause of “evil and tragedy.” He made the comments in an article published in late January by “La Civiltà Cattolica,” a Jesuit journal that reflects Vatican thinking. Father Lombardi said it was not enough for bishops to put procedures in place and deal quietly with sexual abuse cases. They need to communicate openly and quickly

Vatican official says pope's outreach to divorced Catholics well-received

A leading Vatican official says opposition to Pope Francis’ outreach to divorced and remarried Catholics comes from a minority that is tied to a vision of the church that “never existed.” Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, made the comments in an interview published in the British magazine The Tablet Jan. 25. It offers an interesting look at how the debate over Communion for divorced Catholics is seen inside the pope’s own “cabinet” of Vatican advisors. Based on information received from bishops and lay groups involved in marriage and family life around the world, Bishop Farrell said, the pope’s pastoral initiative has been “overwhelmingly wel

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