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Pope Francis says the Church should reflect on married priests

Pope Francis addresses priests of the Diocese of Rome during a meeting at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome last week (CNS)

Pope Francis has said the Church should reflect on whether the “Holy Spirit” is demanding married priests.

In an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit, the Pope was asked about the shortage of vocations in some dioceses. He referred to the idea of “viri probati”, in which married or unmarried laymen recognised as potential leaders are ordained as priests.

Francis said: “We have to reflect about whether the viri probati are a possibility. Then we also have to determine which tasks they could have, for example in far distant parishes… In the Church, it is always important to recognise the right moment, to recognise when the Holy Spirit demands something. That is why I say that we will continue to reflect about the viri probati.”

A few months ago, the Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff said he had heard that the Pope might introduce a trial period for viri probati in Brazil.

The Pope also discussed the possibility of female deacons, saying that theologians should study the example of Scripture. “What did this mean at that time [of the Bible]? What does it mean today?” He added: “Don’t be afraid! That makes us free.”

Asked about Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the four cardinals who have asked the Pope to clarify Amoris Laetitia, Francis praised him as a “excellent lawyer” and said he did not think of the cardinal as an “enemy”.