A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH

A Bishop's Experience with Married Priests

VATICAN CITY, 22 OCT 1999 (ZENIT).

Bishop Virgil Bercea of Oradea Mare of the Rumanians, is young, joyful, strong in faith, polite, candid, clear-thinking and certain. He was happy to comment on the sessions of the Synod of Bishops for Europe, which will end this Saturday with a solemn Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Like other countries of Eastern Europe, Rumania has Catholic priests of the Eastern rite who are married. This being the case, it was interesting to ask Bishop Bercea how the pastors live, given their married state.

"Celibacy is not a problem for us, it is a choice," Bishop Bercea said. "I think the debate that has taken place in the West is characterized by ignorance on the subject. In our Church, 20% of the priests of the Greek-Catholic rite are married, while the others, of the Latin rite, are celibate. In my diocese, I have married priests with children and, in general, they have more problems than the others, as those who are celibate can dedicate themselves full-time to the mission, while those who are married must give part of their time and concern to guide and support a family. I understand them and help them, but it must be admitted that family life is a huge commitment."

Married Priests During Persecutions Bishop Bercea recalled, moreover, that "at the time when the Church was persecuted, the married priests suffered more, because the regime would blackmail them by threatening their families, so on some occasions they gave in, and denied the faith. Now many of the priests live with huge problems of conscience."

Women and Priesthood In regard to proposals in the West for promoting the access of women to the ministerial priesthood in the Catholic Church, the Rumanian Bishop responded: "I must say that I participated in one of the Italian working groups of the Synod. Among those present, were three very intelligent women. It was the women themselves, in fact, who held back these proposals. They expressed harsh judgment of the radical feminist movement and the mistakes it has made. I very much appreciate women, but I do not think they must be uniform with men, because by doing this they would lose many of the qualities that are exquisitely feminine. I think that radical feminists have hysterical attitudes when they try to transform women into men."

"We must look at Mary as the model of woman," the Bishop said. "Mary is closer to God than priests themselves. She bore Christ in her womb and maternity, a quintessentially feminine quality, represents a very deep link with creation, a kind of liturgical relation with divine plans. If women were to understand their importance, their role would be decisive."

Faith in Eastern Europe In commenting on the numerous Bishops from Eastern Europe present at the Synod, Bishop Virgil Bercea said that they have brought the testimony of faith that passed through the trial of persecution. "We suffered under Communism, but the sufferings have continued in these ten years since the fall of the Wall, because Communism has uprooted people's faith, and it is not enough to recover faith to re-conquer faith. In the first instance, we thought that everyone would return to the Church, but then we realized that for many people Christ does not mean anything. The regime collapsed, but the ideology remains. The current leaders were educated by the Communist regime. This is why the final message of the Synod for Europe will emphasize the importance of forming new generations. We bet on youth. Something which is applicable also in Western Europe where there are signs of a new awakening of the faith. We have seen that when youth is given important responsibilities, they respond with extraordinary enthusiasm." ZE99102108

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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