Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.





June 26, 1999

VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II expressed solidarity with victims of sexual abuse by clergy Saturday, but insisted such scandals are no reason to drop celibacy requirements for priests.

The pope's mention of sexual abuse came during a meeting with bishops from Ireland, a predominantly Catholic nation which has been rocked by pedophilia scandals involving clergy.

The case of a pedophile priest in Ireland earlier this decade forced the church hierarchy there to confront sex abuse among Roman Catholic clergy and generated a controversy that brought down an Irish government.

As he has in the past, the pope said he was close in ``suffering and prayer'' to those who were sexually abused by clerics or religious figures.

Addressing the bishops, the pope said: ``These scandals, and a sociological rather than theological concept of the Church, sometimes lead to calls for a change in the discipline of celibacy.''

But, John Paul said, ``the difficulties involved in preserving chastity are not sufficient reason for overturning the law of celibacy.''

In Ireland in 1997, a 70-year-old priest, Brendan Smyth, died of a heart attack shortly after starting to serve a 12-year prison term. He had pleaded guilty to 74 counts of sexually abusing 20 boys and girls between 1958 and 1993.

His case prompted an apology by Irish bishops for the church's insufficient attention to pedophiles in the priesthood.

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