Catholic abbot wants priests to marry


Version Française. BUJUMBURA - Father Adrien Ntabona, a notable Roman Catholic leader has publicly called on the Vatican to permit priests to get married, arguing that some priests are not able to fulfill the vow of chastity.

The 70-year-old prelate is a scholar, writer, seasoned researcher and thinker, respected in educated and political circles in Bujumbura Capital. Ntabona's supporters describe his point of view as ‘courageous’, especially his views on the country's most critical issues.

The retiree from the National University of Burundi where he has been lecturing in linguistics and African literature for a long time, founded a popular church during the genocide crisis of the 1990s. Ntabona established the Spirit of Wisdom church, which belongs to the archdiocese of Bujumbura, and the church has become a sought-after worship venue for university students and upper-class persons of the area.

Father Ntabona believes that the priests' marriage would be “one of the pathways for putting off the hypocrisy of priests that secretly indulge in sexual issues”.

Though Ntabona is not authorized to criticize the Vatican, he told a local media outlet last week that he favors allowing priests to marry just like anyone else, regardless of the church’s principles, and would do so were he the decision maker.

“For my part, I am ready now to bless any priest who desires to be joined with the woman of his choice," Ntabona declared.

Ntabona's statements have raised eyebrows in Bujumbura's other Roman Catholic churches. The vast majority of Roman Catholic followers in Bujumbura reject the authority of a priest who would call for such radical change.

The pope's representative has not responded to the statements, but pressure from local critics moved Ntabona to backtrack on his controversial position.

Ntabona now says that "to serve as a priest and to commit to marriage are incompatible, and one should first give up the clerical life and plan for the marriage afterward."

Burundi is a country where the religious conservatism inherited from colonization - especially Roman Catholic conservatism - still influences citizens' daily lives. Some 65% of the population of Burundi is firmly Roman Catholic, while 20 percent are animists, and 2 percent are Muslim.