Pope Francis has reportedly given nod to a debate to consider the possibility of married men becoming priests.
Vatican sources were quoted to have said the pontiff has requested a conversation over allowing married men in the Amazon region of Brazil to be ordained as priests.
This follows a request made by Claudio Hummes, a cardinal and president of the Episcopal commission for the Amazon, on discussing the partial lifting of priestly celibacy in the region.
Il Messaggero, an Italian newspaper, quoted sources as saying Hummes had asked Francis to consider ordaining married men of great faith — referred to as ‘viri probati’ — who are capable of ministering spiritually to the people of the Amazon where there is a shortage of priests.
It is thought that there is just one priest for every 10,000 Catholics in the region where evangelical Christians and pagan sects are reportedly displacing Catholicism.
The issue will now be open for discussion and voting Brazilian bishops at an upcoming synod, according to Il Messaggero.
Erwin Krautler, secretary of the Episcopal commission, was also said to have re-echoed the cardinal’s request.
He is also suggesting that the bishops attending the synod in 2019 on the Amazon should also consider ordaining women deacons as priests, according to the Austrian news agency KNA.
KNA reports that Monsignor Krausler quoted the Pope as telling him to “speak to the bishops and tell them to make valid proposals” about such ordinations.
This is not the first time the Pope is raising the prospect of lifting the celibacy rule. In March, he was quoted to have told Die Zeit, a German weekly that “we must consider if viri probati is a possibility”, adding: “Then we must determine what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote communities”.
If the request is granted, it would reverse the age-long practice that Roman Catholic priests must be celibate.
However, Francis had reportedly said while he remains in favour of celibacy for priests, the principle is not a dogma of the Catholic church but a discipline, thus making it open for discussion.