To the Bishops, priests and faithful of the whole Catholic World
Priestly celibacy has been guarded by the church for centuries as a brilliant jewel, and retains its value undiminished even in our time when the outlook of men and the state of the world have undergone such profound changes. Amid the modern stirrings of opinion, a tendency has also been manifested, and even a desire expressed, to ask the Church to re-examine this characteristic institution. It is said that in the world of our time the observance of celibacy has come to be difficult or even impossible.
This state of affairs is troubling consciences, perplexing some priest and young aspirants to the priesthood; it is a cause for alarm in many of the faithful and constrains us to fulfill the promise we made to the Council fathers. We told them that it was Our intention to give new luster and strength to priestly celibacy in the world of today. Since saying this we have, over a considerable period of time earnestly implored the enlightment and assistance of the Holy Spirit and have examined before God opinions and petitions which have come to Us from all over the world, notably from many pastors of God's Church.