Pope Francis: Priests could be allowed to marry

Pope Francis says that celibacy for priests is a “temporary prescription,” signaling a potential end to a centuries-old requirement of the Roman Catholic Church.

His comments came as he marked the 10th anniversary of his elevation to the High See, a tenure marked by laical and clerical disputes over homosexuality, the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal, Communion for pro-abortion politicians and the traditional Latin Mass, among others.

Priests in the Roman Catholic Church have been required to remain celibate and unmarried throughout their ministry for a thousand years. Clergy in the Eastern Orthodox Church, however, have been allowed to marry.

Periodic suggestions have been made that allowing Catholic priests to marry and ordaining married men as priests could ease persistent clergy shortages in many parts of the world. Most recently, the idea was floated in relation to a critical lack of clergy in Brazil’s Amazon region.

Last Friday, delegates to the German Church’s Synodal Way assembly voted to call on Francis to “reexamine” the celibacy doctrine and consider the ordination of women as priests, the independent Catholic News Agency reported.

Speaking to the Argentinian news website Infobae, Francis, 86, said Saturday that the celibacy requirement could be reconsidered, although he added that he did not believe relaxing the rule would encourage more men to consider a clerical vocation.

“[I]t is temporary in this sense: it is not perpetual like priestly ordination, which is forever, whether you like it or not,” the pope told reporter Daniel Hadad, the website’s founder and CEO. “Whether you leave [the church] or not is a different matter, but [ordination] is forever. Celibacy, on the other hand, is a discipline.”

The pontiff acknowledged that priests in the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is considered a part of global Catholicism, are married, and that churches aligned with Rome allow married clergy, who select that option before ordination.

“Here in the Curia we have one — just today I came across him — who has his wife, his son, [and he] comes [here],” Francis said of an Eastern rite priest who works at the Vatican.

“Everyone in the Eastern church is married. Or those who want to,” said Francis, who was born and raised in Argentina.