Melbourne (Jagran News Network): He may now be an advocate of celibacy for Catholic priests but as a young priest, Pope Benedict XVI had signed a document that called for modifications” in the Church’s rules regarding celibacy.

A report put out by the magazine Pipeline and also published by Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper claimed that Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) was one of the eight leading theologians who signed a memorandum in 1970s that propagated a relaxation in rules to deal with the shortage of Catholic priests.

“Our considerations regard the necessity of a serious investigation and a differentiated inspection of the law of celibacy of the Latin church for Germany and the whole of the universal church,” the memorandum says.

Ratzinger’s document said that not re-examining the issue would “create the impression that it did not believe in the strength of the Gospel recommendation of a celibate life for the sake of heaven, but rather only in the power of a formal authority”.

Since this was a Church law, and not dogma, the same could be changed according to the changing times, it recommended.

The document was signed as the Church leaders were panicked by worries of Sunday Mass without priests in various parts of the world.

The release of the document comes in the backdrop of a renewed debate in Germany about celibacy rules of the Church.

However, there are various opinions on the touchy issue. According to AdelaideNow, Father Brian Lucas, general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said there was a range of opinions on the matter at that time.

He said the present mind of the Vatican was to keep the current practice, despite a perceived shortage of priests.