Speaking before a meeting with a German bishop, the pope called celibacy "the sign of full devotion, the entire commitment to the Lord and to the 'Lord's business,' an expression of giving oneself to God and to others," the BBC reported.
Bishop Robert Zollitsch apologized for sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Germany. The scandal there has touched the pope's brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, with allegations of abuse at a school where he was choir master. Ratzinger has admitted hitting boys but denied being aware of any sexual abuse.
Cardinal Christopher Schoenborn, archbishop of Vienna, wrote this week the church needs to examine how priests are trained, now the "so-called sexual revolution" has affected the church and the doctrine of celibacy.
The church only mandated celibacy for its priests in the 12th century and Eastern Rite priests are still allowed to marry. A number of married Protestant ministers who converted to Catholicism have been allowed to function as priests.