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Cardinal Camillo Ruini in a Nov., 2016 interview. TG2000 / Youtube screen grab

ROME, November 7, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, a close ally of John Paul II and the previous head of the country’s bishops’ conference, said the Amazon Synod made the “wrong choice” in recommending in its final document that married men be ordained as priests. He added that he hopes and prays Pope Francis will “not confirm” the recommendation. 

Cardinal Ruini, a former Vicar General of Rome, told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in a Nov. 3 interview: “In the Amazon, and also in other parts of the world, there is a serious shortage of priests, and Christian communities often remain deprived of the Mass.” The cardinal went on to say that it is “understandable that there is a push to ordain married deacons as priests,” adding that it is “in this sense most of the synod was in favor of ordaining married deacons to the priesthood.”

“In my opinion, however, this is a wrong choice. And I hope and pray that the Pope, in the upcoming post-synodal apostolic exhortation, will not confirm it,” the cardinal said. 

At 88 years old, the eminent clergyman identified two reasons why it would be a mistake to make an exception in the vast Amazonian region to priestly celibacy in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. According to Cardinal Ruini, the first reason is that in today’s “eroticized” society, “priestly celibacy is a great sign of total dedication to God and to the service of our brothers.”

The working document, Instrumentum Laboris, that preceded the Amazonia Synod, recommended that so-called viri probati (mature married men) be considered for ordination to the priesthood. Critics of the proposal, including cardinals Walter Brandmuller and Gerhard Muller, have rejected it, stating that it would be a stark departure from millennial Church tradition.

As expected, the Synod’s Final Document calls for the admittance to the priesthood of married men already deacons. 

“[W]e propose to establish criteria and dispositions on the part of the competent authority […] to ordain as priests men who are apt for it and who are recognized by the community, who are fruitful permanent deacons and who receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, even if they have a legitimately constituted and stable family […]. With regard to this, some wished that the topic be addressed in a universal way,” the final document states. 

The last proposal about addressing the topic in a “universal way” appears to refer to the ordination of married men outside of the Amazon region.

Relinquishing the discipline of celibacy in even just one region, the Cardinal declared, “would be to yield to the spirit of the world, which always tries to penetrate the Church, and that would hardly stop with exceptional cases like the Amazon.” Another reason to adhere to the requirement for celibacy, said the Cardinal, is that married priests and their wives are not immune to the effects of the crisis in the institution of marriage. 

“Their human and spiritual condition could not fail to be affected,” he said. When asked by the interviewer whether having married priests would create a “mess,” the Cardinal answered affirmatively.

Cardinal Ruini admitted that celibacy was a trial for him, even though “it is a great gift that the Lord gave me.” For him, a consolation has been his close relations with his sister and other family members, as well as his friendship with young people. He said, “And I am fortunate to live with people who are like a family to me.” 

According to Cardinal Ruini, there is “only one decisive answer” to the problem of vocations to the priesthood: “We Christians, and in particular we priests and religious, must be closer to God in our lives, lead a more holy life, and beg God for all this in prayer. Without getting tired.”

Cardinal Ruini was asked by interviewer Aldo Cazzullo whether he agrees with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI that the crisis of Europe is “anthropological: man no longer knows who he is.” The Cardinal affirmed, “The main reason we no longer know who we are is that we no longer believe we are made in the image of God; the consequence is that we no longer have our identity, compared to the rest of nature.”