Pope Francis has suggested that the Catholic church may be forced to ordain married men to minister in remote communities facing priest shortages.
The pontiff stressed that removing the celibacy rule is not the answer to the Catholic Church’s priest shortage, but he said he was open to studying whether so-called ‘viri probati’ – or married men of proven faith – could be ordained.
The ‘viri probati’ proposal has been around for decades, but it has drawn fresh attention under history’s first Latin American pope thanks in part to his appreciation of the challenges facing the church in places like Brazil, a huge Catholic country with an acute shortage of priests.
In an interview with Germany’s Die Zeit, he said: ‘We must consider if viri probati is a possibility. Then we must determine what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote communities.’
Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a longtime friend of Francis and former head of the Vatican’s office for clergy, is reportedly pressing to allow viri probati in the Amazon, where the church counts around one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.