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Call for more involvement of ex priests in Church

LONDON (Agencies): The Vatican has appealed to diocesan bishops to encourage priests who have left the ministry in order to get married to play a more active role in parish life.

The Catholic Herald, published in London, the United Kingdom, claims that it has seen a letter penned by Ivan Cardinal Dias, prefect of the Congregation of Evangelisation of Peoples in Rome, saying that more discretionary power should be placed in the hands of bishops for discerning a dispensed cleric’s involvement with parish life.

The letter, dated 2 February 2011, was sent to a priest, who had written to the congregation on behalf of an Australian missionary society that is seeking a relaxation of the prohibitions on dispensed clergy.

Cardinal Dias wrote of his confidence that the Vatican reforms would enable dispensed priests to lead a more active life in the ministry of the Church as committed Catholics under their bishop’s guidance.

The usual mode of laicisation and dispensation from the priestly vow of celibacy is through a rescript of the Apostolic See, meaning a response from the pope or a sacred congregation granting a favour and the conditions upon which it is granted.

The rescript permitting the laicisation of a priest prohibits celebrating Mass, giving homilies, administering the Eucharist, teaching or working in seminaries.

It also places restrictions on teaching the faith in schools and universities.

The cardinal’s letter would mean that the enforcement of half the prohibitions stipulated in the rescript will now come under the discretion of the local bishop, who can then make the final decision on practices in his diocese..

Prohibitions, which the letter says are no longer absolute, include teaching theology in schools or universities, either Catholic or non-Catholic, as well as contact with the parish where he used to serve and administering the Eucharist.

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