THE VATICAN IIAS approved the return to ministry of "hundreds" of priests who left active ministry to marry, but who are now divorced or widowed, it was disclosed last week.
According to Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, secretary of the Congregation for Clergy, Vatican statistics showed that between 1976 and 1993, defections caused by marriage numbered "more than 14,000"; however, he went on to say that "the important thing to note is that the number of requests for readmission to the ministry is growing".
Archbishop Sepe stressed that in such cases the Church, in accepting the return of the priests who were never laicised, is not denigrating marriage, but that the individual priests must acknowledge that they had made a grave mistake.
In order to return to the ministry, the Archbishop said, the man in question must write a letter in which he says that, having thought about the action he took, he has repented and asks for readmission to the exercise of his priestly ministry. "He must show that he is sincerely sorry for the step he has taken" he said. "Their vocation remains, it is just that there was a time when this vocation, this inner voice, was obscured, then it was rediscovered when the crisis was overcome."
However, he also warned that the priest's bishop and other priests from the same diocese "who have known him and kept in touch with him" during the time he was inactive must also attest to the priest's repentance and his fitness for returning to the active ministry.