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Pope says celibacy a ‘temporary prescription’, open to review

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Pope Francis holds his pastoral staff during Christmas Eve Mass in St Peter’s Basilica. Photo: CNS, Paul Haring

Pope Francis has raised the possibility of a revision of priestly celibacy, saying the discipline was a “temporary prescription”.

“There is no contradiction for a priest to marry. Celibacy in the Western church is a temporary prescription: I do not know if it is settled in one way or another, but it is temporary in this sense,” Pope Francis said in an interview published on 10 March.

“It is not eternal like priestly ordination, which is forever, whether you like it or not.

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“Whether you leave or not is another matter, but it is forever. On the other hand, celibacy is a discipline.”

The Holy Father was interviewed by Argentine journalist Daniel Hadad for the Spanish-language news service Infobae.

Mr Hadad asked whether a review of celibacy was possible, to which the Holy Father replied “yes, yes.”

“In fact, everyone in the Eastern church is married. Or those who want to. There they make a choice. Before ordination there is the choice to marry or to be celibate,” he said.

He disagreed that optional celibacy would attract more candidates to the priesthood, however.

Pope Francis has previously given more conservative statements on celibacy, while considering the possibility of exceptions for clergy in remote areas of the developing world.

“Personally, I think that celibacy is a gift to the Church. I would say that I do not agree with allowing optional celibacy, no,” he said in 2019.

The Holy Father was also asked about his views on people experiencing same-sex attraction, saying, “The big answer was given by Jesus: Everybody! Everyone inside.”

“This is a church of sinners. I don’t know where the church of saints is, here we are all sinners. And who am I to judge a person if he or she has good will? Today there is a lot of focus on this problem,” he said.

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