Pope raises prospect of married priests
Brazilian trial could effectively end priestly celibacy in the Catholic church
Pope Francis has raised the possibility that married men could become Catholic priests, with a controversial debate likely to outrage conservatives in the church.
The pontiff is to allow Brazilian bishops to debate - and possibly vote on - the possibility of ordaining viri probati, married men of great faith, so they can take up ministry in the remotest parts of the Amazon basin, were priests are in short supply.
In the Amazon region there is estimated to be just one priest for every 10,000 Catholics - and it has even been suggested by one senior cleric that bishops attending the Amazon synod in 2019 should consider ordaining women deacons as priests.
In an interview with Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper this year, Francis said the Church should consider allowing married men to become priests in specific circumstances, “effectively reversing the centuries-old practice that Roman Catholic priests must be celibate”, says The Daily Telegraph.
Nevertheless, says the paper, “such a breakthrough is likely to nourish criticism by conservatives who are up in arms over Francis’s decision to allow divorced people who re-marry to receive communion if their priests or local bishop approve”.
There are already some married ministers in the Catholic church, including married Anglican ministers who converted and some Coptic Catholics, and it is believed a Brazilian trial could be extended to Africa, where many Catholic priests already have mistresses and children.