Pope Francis has taken the first step toward opening the priesthood to married men, it was revealed Wednesday.
The pontiff responded to a request by Brazilian cardinals who claim there is a lack of men to serve in remote Amazon communities and other solutions are needed, according to London’s Telegraph newspaper.
Claudio Cardinal Hummes, the president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, asked Francis to allow married men “of great faith” to serve as priests in places where paganism is displacing Catholicism.
The exception to let married men serve would only apply to those certain regions in Brazil. Brazilian bishops will hold a vote on the matter.
Francis reportedly told one of his monsignors to “speak to the bishops and tell them to make valid proposals” about such ordinations.
In the Amazon region, there is estimated to be just one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.
As the first Latin American pope, Francis is well aware of priest shortages in these areas.
The pope hinted at the move during an interview in March.
Francis said he was open to the idea of having certain men called “viri probati” — married men of great faith — serve as priests.
“We must consider if viri probati is a possibility,” he told Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper. “Then we must determine what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote communities.”
The married priests would not have to take a vow of celibacy.
“They would have a normal married life,” Monsignor Giacomo Canobbio, a leading Italian theologian, told The Telegraph.
“I believe that Francis could review this, though he would not decide alone but would start a collegial process. The question is urgent.”
The pope’s move comes after one monsignor said women should be able to serve as well.
Monsignor Erwin Krautler, the secretary of the Episcopal Commission, suggested that bishops in the Amazon should consider ordaining women deacons as priests.
Theologian Leonardo Boff suggested last year that the pope may try the married priest initiative as an experiment “for the moment confined to Brazil.”
Brazilian bishops have a close relationship with Francis, who is from Argentina.
“It is, however, true that the pope has invited the Brazilian bishops on more than one occasion to seek and propose with courage the pastoral solutions that they believe to be suitable for addressing the major pastoral problems of their country,” former director of the Holy See Press Office Fr. Federico Lombardi said in 2015.
SOURCE: NEW YORK POST