Pope Francis has proposed a radical rethinking of the traditional Vatican teaching that prevents married men from becoming priests.
The Pope told German newspaper Die Zeit the Catholic Church would consider allowing married men to become ordained under certain circumstances,The Telegraph reported.
The Pope said he was open to the idea of so-called viri probati — meaning married men of proven faith — becoming priests.
Circumstances where the proposed exception would apply include remote areas where there is a short supply of priests.
But if such a concept was to come into effect, it would reverse the centuries-old principle of Roman Catholic priests being required to remain celibate.
“We must consider if viri probati is a possibility,” Pope Francis told the paper.
“Then we must determine what tasks they can perform. For example, in remote communities.”
He did, however, dismiss the possibility of removing the celibacy requirement entirely, telling the paper, “optional celibacy is not the solution”.
Being the Catholic Church’s first Latin American Pope, Pope Francis is conscious of a lack of priests in certain regions as well as in large countries such as Brazil.
There is just one priest for every 10,000 Catholics in the Amazon region.
The Pope’s contemporary outlook towards several controversial issues, such as whether divorced Catholics who remarry can take Communion, has sparked criticism from many conservatives.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 10, 2017
In the past Pope Francis has suggested he believes celibacy for priests is part of Church discipline rather than dogma, which leaves the concept open to discussion.
"Pope Francis is open to married men becoming priests" About time, why did that take SO long??? And now, what about women priests???
— Chris Evert (@ChrissieEvert) March 10, 2017
— Jules Madison (@julescmadison) March 10, 2017
His personal beliefs, however, remain in favour of the traditional principle.
“From the moment I was elected Pope I have never lost my peace. I understand that someone might not like [my] way of acting,” he told Die Zeit.
“There are so many ways of thinking; it is licit, it is human, and it is even a richness.”