Married priests may be needed to address clergy shortage, Pope Francis suggests

Pope Francis has suggested that he is willing to consider ordaining married men in the Catholic Church to address the problem of a clergy shortage especially in remote areas.

(REUTERS / Tony Gentile)Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, March 15, 2017.

In an interview conducted in German, Pope Francis brought up the possibility of ordaining the viri probati, or married men who have been deemed faithful or virtuous. However, he brushed off the idea of voluntary celibacy, saying it is not a solution to the ongoing priest shortage, Life Site News relays.

"We have to think about if the viri probati are a possibility. Then we also have to discern which tasks they can take on, for example, in forlorn communities," Pope Francis told German newspaper Die Zeit in the interview."There is much talk about voluntary celibacy, especially there where the clergy is lacking. But a voluntary celibacy is not a solution."

Pope Francis wondered out loud why there are no available priests in certain areas in Germany and Switzerland to celebrate Mass. The pontiff said this crisis weakens the Church.

The practice of celibacy for priests is a discipline that arises from the understanding that married men cannot give their full dedication to both the Church and their family. However, married priests from other Christian denominations are allowed to serve as priests when they embrace the Catholic faith.

Speaking to German daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger in a Dec. 25 interview, liberation theologian Leonardo Boff predicted that Brazil may soon have married priests serving in the ministry. Brazilian bishops have asked the pope to let married priests return to their church service, and Boff said the request may be granted soon "as an experimental, preliminary phase" in the country.

Like Germany and Switzerland, Brazil is also undergoing a clergy crisis. There are 140 million Catholics in the country. While at least 100,000 priests are needed to serve the community, the country only has 1,800 of them. According to Boff, the shortage has driven so many of the faithful to other denominations.