Pope Francis has given the green light for a debate on whether married men can become Catholic priests, according to reports.
The pontiff has agreed to put a partial lifting of celibacy rules in remote areas of the Amazon up for a vote by Brazilian bishops.
Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon urged the Pope to consider the move to combat a shortage of clergy in the Amazon region.
It’s thought there is just one priest for every 10,000 Catholics in the region.
The call has been echoed by Monsignor Erwin Krautler, a senior Vatican official, who suggested it be discussed at a church summit on the Amazon set to take place in 2019.
He also suggested the synod discuss ordaining women deacons as priests in the region.
Monsignor Krausler told an Austrian news agency the Pope had told him to “speak to the bishops and tell them to make valid proposals.”
It’s not the first time Pope Francis has raised the possibility of married men becoming priests.
Earlier this year, he told a German newspaper they must consider whether ordaining viri probati – Latin for “proven or tested men” – should be a possibility in certain circumstances.
The option would allow already married men to be ordained as priests, but would not allow single priests to marry.
He added: “Then we must determine what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote communities.”
The Church already allows some married men – including protestant priests who convert to Catholicism – to be ordained.
And some Eastern Catholic churches that are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church can also maintain their tradition of married priests.
In his book, “On Heaven and Earth”, Pope Francis wrote: “For the time being, I am in favour of maintaining celibacy with the pros and cons that it has, because it has been ten centuries of good experiences more often than failure.”
The Pope today made an emotional anti-war address during a visit to a US military cemetery in Southern Italy.
Francis said a Mass for several thousand people at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in the town of Nettuno, south of the Italian capital, on the day Roman Catholics commemorate their dead.
The burial ground is the final resting place for 7,860 American soldiers who died in the liberation of southern Italy and Rome in 1943 and 1944.