The question was originally asked when Pope Francis was first installed as Pontiff: Might this be the man to lead the Church away from a celibate priesthood?
Pope Francis certainly has tackled some issues that many Catholics have been eager to see addressed, including corruption in the Vatican Bank. And he has spoken about the touchy issue of priesthood celibacy before.
Again recently, Pope Francis pointed out that there are married priests in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Coptic Catholic churches.
“The door is always open,” he said about the issue, “but we are not talking about it now as the order of the day,”
Some are finding hope in the fact that Pope Francis is addressing this as a “problem.”
“The problem certainly exists, but it is not on a large scale,”Pope Francis has said. “It will need time, but the solutions are there and I will find them.”
It’s not just the rank and file faithful who are keen to see this dealt with. Priests are conflicted about it, as well.
“Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air,” says one priest. “This is a fascinating time in church history because of him. He’s out there in the sunshine, tackling big issues, dragging the church into the 21st century, on the cover of Time, speaking to the young. Most older priests I know are open to optional celibacy. Look, we accept converted, married Anglican priests. The Eastern Catholic priests can marry. Why not all priests?”
Proponents of losing the celibacy rule are quick to point out that Saint Peter, considered the First Pope, was married. And many don’t realize that celibacy was optional for priests until the First Lateran Council of 1123.
In his 2012 book, Pope Francis wrote, “For the moment, I’m in favor of maintaining celibacy, with its pros and cons, because there have been 10 centuries of good experiences rather than failures . … But it is a question of discipline, not faith, and it could change.”
The pope also wrote about a how a girl captured his heart when he was studying to be a priest. “I could not pray for over a week,” he said, “because when I tried to do so the girl appeared in my head.”
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