Pope Francis has reportedly suggested that he may be open to the idea of married men being ordained priests in the Catholic Church, saying that the issue “is in his diary”.
Francis was quoted by priests from the diocese of Rome who met him at the Vatican yesterday. The Bishop of Rome traditionally meets the priests of his diocese during Lent.
The Pope addressed them on the theme of homiletics and then took questions.
Francis reportedly told the priests that last week he celebrated Mass with five priests who were marking the golden anniversary of their ordination, and that five priests who had left the priesthood to marry were also present.
According to the Italian bishops’ paper, L’Avvenire, the Pope addressed the issue of married priests. A priest and theologian who supports the ordination of married men, Giovanni Cereti, recalled the case of the Eastern Churches, where married men can be ordained priests, unlike in the Latin Rite. In his reply Francis reportedly said “the issue is in my diary”.
Another priest who was there told an American news agency recalled Francis' words as: "I would not store this question in an archive".
The Holy See press office has released eight minutes of audio from the two-hour meeting, but no official summary or transcription.
Fr Cereti said it was a question of “survival” for the Church because a crisis in vocations meant one priest must cover seven or eight parishes by himself.
The 82-year-old said he had taken the decision not to marry 55 years ago “in serenity with another person who is now consecrated”.
Francis has already invited bishops to seek and propose courageously pastoral solutions to address the problem of a shortage of vocations in countries such as Brazil.
Last year a group of 30 women who said they were in relationships with priests wrote to him asking him to consider how much they suffered through not being able to marry them.