RETIRED Pope Benedict XVI has issued a warning to his successor against easing rules on priests remaining celibate.
His comments come as Pope Francis is said to be looking at potentially allowing married men to be ordained into the priesthood.
Benedict (pictured above) revealed his views in a book he co-authored with Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah which could be seen as a bid to sway the thinking of Francis.
In the book, the 92-year-old says celibacy, a centuries-old tradition in the Roman Catholic Church, has ‘great significance’ because it allows priests to focus on their duties.
Discussions over allowing married men to enter the priesthood have become more pressing as the church seeks to address severe shortages across the world.
In some areas, particularly in the Amazon, the faithful can go months without celebrating mass.
Benedict’s defence of priestly celibacy is unexpected as he had promised to remain ‘hidden from the world’ and obedient to the new Pope when he retired in 2013.
He has largely held on to his pledge, though in an essay last year on the sexual abuse scandal he blamed the crisis on the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
However, married men serving as priests is a fraught policy issue that Francis is expected to weigh in on.