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Does Pope Francis Want Priests to Marry?

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In a surprising and inspiring turn of events, Pope Francis has begun discussions to allow married priests within the Catholic Church.
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Pope Francis has surprised and inspired us once again. According to reports, he has requested a debate within the Catholic Church over whether or not married men should be allowed to become priests. As a response, the pontiff has agreed to put a partial lifting of celibacy rules, specifically in regions such as the Amazon region of Brazil where it will then be up for debate by Brazilian bishops.

In remote areas such as the Amazon, there is estimated to be just one priest for every 10,000 Catholics, encouraging the president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon to plead to the Pope for the celibacy change to occur. In recent years, regions such as these have seen a decline in Catholicism and a move towards Evangelicalism.

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The Pope told German weekly, “Die Zeit” that the lack of Catholic priests was an “enormous problem” for the church. “We need to consider if ‘viri probati’ could be a possibility,” he continued. “If so, we would need to determine what duties they could undertake, for example, in remote communities.” The Latin phrase “viri probati” translates to “tested men” or married men of outstanding faith and virtue. If the rule was lifted, these priests would not be required to take a vow of celibacy and the Church would come closer to addressing the shortage of clergy in these remote locations.

While some may see this as a small advancement with a multitude of “only for’s” and “only if’s,” in reality, a celibacy lift for priests in any shape or form is yet another step in the modernizing of Catholic practices, many of which have been initiated by Pope Francis.

“They would have a normal married life,” Monsignor Giacomo Canobbio, a leading Italian theologian, told The Telegraph. “I believe that Francis could review this, though he would not decide alone but would start a collegial process. The question is urgent.”

Despite putting forward such a discussion, the Pope remains in favor of celibacy for priests in general. However, the celibacy principle is not dogma, but rather part of the discipline of the church and therefore, allows him the right to put the topic up for debate. This potential change would only allow already married men to be ordained as priests, not allowing single priests the opportunity to pursue marriage.

While some may see this as a small advancement with a multitude of “only for’s” and “only if’s,” in reality, a celibacy lift for priests in any shape or form is yet another step in the modernizing of Catholic practices, many of which have been initiated by Pope Francis.

Pope-Francis

Photo by Neneo/Shutterstock.com

The move to lift the celibacy ban comes hand in hand with retired Brazilian Bishop Erwin Kräutler’s request that the Pan-Amazon Synod permit women to become permanent deacons—which, if achieved, is yet another shocking change in Catholic practices.

It is anticipated that there will be pushback from conservatives in the Catholic Church who have already been vocal about their disapproval of other advancements—most recently, permitting divorced people who have remarried to receive communion at the discretion of their local priest.

While perhaps an unexpected turn of events, this invitation by Pope Francis to discuss married priests within the Catholic Church comes as no surprise. Pope Francis, respected and loved, has made no secret of his passion to expand the life and ministry of Jesus through the Catholic Church by encouraging the Church to not be limited by previous disciplines and practices. He has advocated and demonstrated a desire to instead seek out what Godly modernization within the Church looks like in practice.

After all, this is the Pope that boldly encouraged a crowd of young adults to effect change in St. Peter’s Square in 2013 by saying, “Go on, be brave and go against the current!”


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