FROM A ROME CORRESPONDENT
-DOPE PAUL has appealed to the world's bishops and heads of religious Orders to give active support to his efforts to uphold the rule of priestly celibacy.
He does not want mere statements of support, of which there have been plenty, but a practical drive by the bishops to convince their priests that there can be no legitimate challenge to the celibacy law.
Cardinal Jean Villot, Vatican Secretary of State, has sent to the National Conferences of Bishops and heads of religious orders a copy of a letter the n Pope sent to him on February 2. It was sent to bishops on February 14 and to religious Orders on March 4.
This follows a letter sent to Bishops last month by Cardinal Wright, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, recommending that priests should renew their promise of obedience and celibacy every year.
The Pope's letter said he considered it his duty to preserve clerical celibacy for the Latin Rite Church— "a grave commitment of his pontificate." In his 1967 encyclical on priestly celibacy he called it a "brilliant jewel".
ONE CONCESSION The Pope added that he might, reluctantly, make one concession to the general law by considering the possibility of married men of mature age and good reputation becoming priests in places where there was a grave shortage of clergy (Latin America is an example).
Cardinal Viliot, in his accompanying letter, said the Pope was "asking all his brethren in the episcopate, in perfect communion with the Apostolic See, to support and help priests so that they may fulfil their mission in the modern world in faithfulness to the burdens they have assumed, and to encourage youths, the hope of the Church, to embrace generously the priesthood and sacred celibacy."