Pope Benedict is urging men who are considering the priesthood not to be deterred by those who had brought shame and disgrace to the ministry by abusing children.
In a letter to seminarians around the world to mark the end of the Year of Priests, Pope Benedict defended the Roman Catholic Church's rule of celibacy for its priests. He said there are some who think the priesthood has no future, but urged seminarians to be committed to their studies.
Anyone who wishes to become a priest, the pope said, must be first and foremost a man of God.
Father Thomas Williams, a professor at Regina Apostolorum University in Rome, says the first thing the pope does in his letter is to urge seminarians to consider the value of their calling into the priesthood.
"To not listen to that current of opinion I would say the priesthood has no future, the priesthood has no value for the world and the main point that he makes is because people will always need God, they will always need priests," said Williams. "They need someone to preach God's word, they need someone to be a reminder to them of who God is and how important he is."
The pope urged those training to become priests not to be deterred by the abusive behavior of some priests. Recently, the pope said, we have seen with great dismay that some priests have disfigured the ministry by sexually abusing children and young people.
"He said this is what can happen when sexuality is not well integrated in one's personality and this is what we need to avoid," Williams said.
Benedict added that "even the most reprehensible abuse cannot discredit the priestly mission, which remains great and pure."
Benedict has several times apologized for the clerical sex abuse in meetings with victims on his overseas trips. The Vatican has assured that tougher procedures have been put in place to screen out those seminarians that could become abusers as priests.
In his letter the pope said that in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis, the church had to be all the more watchful and attentive about who should become priests and ensure that future ministers do not succumb to what he called a banal and destructive sexuality.