ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis is ruling out any lifting of the celibacy requirement for Catholic priests but says there's reason to consider ordaining older, married men in remote communities where priests are in short supply.
Francis said he believes priestly celibacy is a gift for the Catholic Church and opposes a blanket change to make it optional. But he said "pastoral necessity" might justify alternative options in certain parts of the world.
Francis' comments, to reporters on the way home Sunday from Panama, open the way for discussion about celibacy in the run-up to a big meeting of bishops from the Amazon at the Vatican in October. Brazil's bishops have long pushed for the church to consider ordaining so-called viri probati, older married men of proven virtue, to minister in remote parts of the Amazon where the faithful can go weeks or months without Mass.