BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - A married father of two was ordained as a priest by the Catholic Church in Germany on Tuesday after receiving an exemption to priestly celibacy from Pope Benedict XVI.
Harm Klueting, a theologian and former Protestant pastor, will not have to adhere to the Church's celibacy law for the duration of his marriage, the diocese of Cologne said.
The case sheds light on a little-known 60-year-old Roman Catholic church law that allows ordained clergy from other Christian faiths to become priests.
"This happens seldom but it's not unusual," diocese spokesman Christoph Heckeley said, adding that it is more usual in Scandinavia.
The 61-year-old converted to Catholicism in 2004 after which he served as a deacon and taught religious history at universities in Germany and Switzerland. He currently teaches at the University of Cologne where he will also serve as a priest.
Last year a married father of four was ordained as a priest in Regensburg, southern Germany.
Klueting's ordination comes as theologians and Catholic politicians in Germany have pressured the Vatican to end priestly celibacy and the German church struggles to overcome a wave of clerical sex abuse scandals and a priest shortages.
The Roman Catholic Church also launched its first ordinariate for disaffected Anglicans in England and Wales this year, which will see it take in bishops, priests and laity.
Five traditionalist Church of England bishops have applied to join the ordinariate, a Church subdivision retaining some Anglican traditions, and about 30 groups of parishioners are due to cross over, Church leaders told journalists.
It was not clear how many priests would convert in the move, prompted by traditionalist opposition to Church of England plans to ordain women bishops. Married Anglican priests will be accepted but married bishops cannot retain their higher status. The ordinariate, announced by Pope Benedict in 2009, allows those Anglicans opposed to women bishops, gay clergy and same-sex blessings to convert to Rome while keeping many of their traditions.
Reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing by X