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Australian bishop dismissed over differences with Vatican

Asked ordination of both women and married men

Bishop William Morris, leader since 1993 of the vast Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba in Queensland state, Australia, is shown in an undated photo provided by the diocese. Bishop William Morris, leader since 1993 of the vast Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba in Queensland state, Australia, is shown in an undated photo provided by the diocese. (Ho/Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba/AFP/Getty Images)
Associated Press / May 3, 2011

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has fired an outspoken Australian bishop who had called on the church to consider ordaining women and married men.

The Vatican said in a statement yesterday that the pope had “removed from pastoral care’’ Bishop William Morris of the Toowoomba diocese, west of Brisbane.

That move was strong by the standards of the Vatican, which usually stops short of saying outright that it has ousted a church leader. More often, the Vatican asks wayward church leaders to resign and then announces that the pope has accepted their resignations.

Australian media report that Morris recently published an open letter saying he was being removed for a 2006 message to the faithful in which he argued that a shortage of priests should prompt the church to consider ordaining women and married men.

Benedict, as did his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, has staunchly upheld Vatican teaching that only celibate men can be ordained in the Roman Catholic church, although married men in the Latin rite church loyal to the pontiff can become priests. Recent years have also seen the Vatican warmly welcome married Anglican priests who have converted to Roman Catholicism.

Morris said the letter sparked complaints to Rome, which in turn led to a Vatican investigation. According to the daily newspaper The Australian, Morris said he had never written a letter of resignation.

A month ago, the Vatican dismissed a Congolese prelate, Bishop Jean-Claude Makaya Loemba, also saying he was “removed from pastoral care.’’ According to African media reports, he was fired for management problems in his diocese.

For the second straight day, Catholic faithful filled St. Peter’s Square yesterday in an outpouring of thanks for the beatification of John Paul II. The crowd was estimated by the Vatican at 60,000, more than half of them from John Paul’s native Poland.

The beatification Sunday, the fastest in modern history, drew 1.5 million people from across the globe, one of the largest Vatican celebrations ever and a testament to the popularity of the late pope.

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