Vatican City--(AP) Pope John Paul II said Thursday that men with "obvious signs of deviations'' must be barred from becoming priests, alluding to the risk of further sex abuse scandals that have been rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope also strongly reaffirmed the Church's requirement that priests be celibate, saying that candidates for the priesthood must understand that celibacy "is not a useless element.'' "It would be regrettable that for mistaken tolerance, immature young men, or those with obvious signs of deviations, were ordained, which, as it is sadly known, can cause serious anomalies in the consciences of the faithful, producing clear damage to the whole Church,'' the pope told visiting Brazilian bishops.

The pope did not explicitly mention the sex abuse scandal, but made clear he expects his bishops around the world to assure that seminaries must emphasize "faithfulness to the doctrine on priestly celibacy.''

Since January, the Catholic Church in the United States has been engulfed by sexual abuse allegations and recent cases have been reported in Germany, Ireland and the pope's native Poland. About 300 of the 46,000 priests in the United States have been taken off duty this year because of sex abuse allegations. The Vatican is now studying proposals by American bishops to deal with abusive priests.

John Paul spoke publicly on the scandal for the first time in Toronto in July, telling young Catholics that sexual abuse of children by priests "fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame.''

The pope made his remarks to the Brazilian bishops during a meeting at his vacation residence in Castel Gandolfo, in the Alban Hills south of Rome. The Vatican later released the text.

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