Bolivian Prez asks Pope to abolish priestly celibacy

Pope Benedict XVI received the Bolivian Prez who sought the abolition of priestly celibacy.

Updated: May 19, 2010, 00:13 AM IST

Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI received Monday in the Vatican the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, who sought the abolition of priestly celibacy and the admission of women to the priesthood.

After a 25-minute meeting, Morales with the help of an interpreter announced the handing over of a letter to the pontiff.

In the note, Morales described himself as a "member of the Catholic Church" and proposed "the need to overcome the crisis in the church, which, as you said, is wounded and sinful".

"To do that it is essential to democratise and humanise its clerical structure. Democratise it so that the same religious rights are acknowledged for all god`s sons and daughters and allowing women to have the same opportunities as men to fully exercise the priesthood," he wrote.

Morales said the church "must not deny a fundamental part of our nature as human beings and must abolish (priestly) celibacy".

"In the same way and with much decisiveness we must protect our children from those who take advantage of the trust that a priest inspires to abuse them. Those guilty of such atrocities not only commit sins but also crimes," he said.

Morales said he was convinced that the pope will consider "with wisdom" his proposals, with which he "humbly seeks to help heal the church`s wounds".

The Bolivian ambassador to the Holy See, Carlos de la Riva, said Morales stressed that in Bolivia there are numerous priests and nuns who make the sacrifice of "working themselves to death on behalf of the peasants".

"During the discussion there was a fruitful exchange of opinions on the current international and regional situation, and the need to promote greater social awareness about caring for the environment," the Vatican said in a statement after Morales` talks with the pope and several of his top aides.

The pope and Morales analysed "some aspects of the situation in Bolivia, in particular the collaboration of church and state on matters of education, health and social policies in defence of the rights of the most vulnerable".

Morales also invited the pope to visit Bolivia and presented him with a white alpaca scarf and two small wooden figures of peasants from the Bolivian altiplano.