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Priests and marriage: Pope's response not so new after all


Pope Francis greets a new priest during a 2015 ordination Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While Pope Francis' recent comments on the subject of married priests made headlines around the world, his response falls clearly in line with the thinking of his predecessors.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit, published in early March, Pope Francis was asked if allowing candidates for the priesthood to fall in love and marry could be "an incentive" for combatting the shortage of priestly vocations.

He was also asked about the possibility of allowing married "viri probati" -- men of proven virtue -- to become priests.

"We have to study whether 'viri probati' are a possibility. We then also need to determine which tasks they could take on, such as in remote communities, for example," Pope Francis said.

Expressing a willingness to study the question of allowing married men to become priests was hardly a groundbreaking response given that the topic was explored in two meetings of the Synod of Bishops and by both Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.

During the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, the possibility of ordaining men of proven virtue was raised as a way to provide priests for areas of the world where Catholics have very limited access to Mass and the sacraments.

"Some participants made reference to 'viri probati,' but in the end the small discussion groups evaluated this hypothesis as a road not to follow," a proposition from the synod said.

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