Pope Francis has requested a debate over permitting married men to become priests in Brazil’s Amazon region, according to The Telegraph.
The Telegraph reported last Thursday that Vatican sources say Francis wants to put a partial lifting of priests’ celibacy up for discussion and a possible vote by Brazilian bishops.
Francis’s move – which was first reported by Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper – follows a request from Cardinal Claudio Hummes.
Hummes, who is president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, asked Francis to mull ordaining so-called viri probati, or married men of great faith.
Ordaining such individuals would help boost the Catholic Church’s ability to minister to many remote portions of the Amazon facing a shortage of priests.
Catholicism is gradually getting eclipsed in such areas by evangelical Christianity and pagan sects instead.
Hummes’ request was also mirrored by Monsignor Erwin Krautler, who is the Episcopal Commission’s secretary.
Krautler quoted Francis as telling him to “speak to the bishops and tell them to make valid proposals” about such ordinations, Austria’s KNA news agency reported.
The Telegraph reported that there is a single priest for every 10,000 Catholics residing in the Amazon region.
Francis earlier this year told Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper that the Church should consider letting married men become priests in specific instances.
“We must consider if viri probati is a possibility,” he said. “Then we must determine what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote communities.”
Francis has said that he remains in favor of priests practicing celibacy, but the principle is part of Church discipline rather than dogma, meaning that it be discussed.
The Church already allows a limited number of married priests, such as married Anglican ministers who pledge themselves to Rome.
The denomination also permits such exceptions for certain Coptic Christians and members of some Eastern-rite Catholic churches.