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Pope: Doing away with celibacy won’t lead to more vocations


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Anna Kurian - Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 03/10/23

In a wide-ranging interview for his 10th anniversary, Pope talks priesthood, Communion for the divorced, and awaiting death.

Pope Francis does not deny that it would be possible to revise the obligation of priestly celibacy, which he notes is a “discipline,” (as opposed to doctrine), in an interview with the Argentine media outlet Infobae, published on March 10, 2023. The conversation was held in light of the 10th anniversary of Francis’ pontificate, which will be celebrated on March 13. The 86-year-old Pope also spoke about communion for remarried divorcees, his recovering knee, international issues affecting many countries and more.

Priestly celibacy : “a temporary prescription”

While the German Synod has just voted on a resolution asking the Pope to revise the obligation of priestly celibacy, the Pontiff says he does not believe that the possibility of getting married would encourage vocations to the priesthood. He reminds us, however, that celibacy is only “a discipline,” a “temporary prescription,” not “eternal.”

The Pope noted this rule could be revised. “There is no contradiction for a priest to marry,” he said, citing the Eastern Catholics Churches where priests choose “to marry or to be celibate” before their ordination.

Later in the interview, and calling on his South American culture, the Pope suggests that “celibacy can lead to machismo.”

“A priest who does not know how to work with women lacks something, he is not mature,” he said. He also called the Vatican “very macho” in its culture.

To understand more about Church teaching on marriage and priests, read more:

Communion for remarried divorcees

The Pope also spoke about the situation of divorced people who have entered another civil marriage. Noting Benedict XVI’s thought, the Pope suggested that many of these marriages might be null. Francis said that the German Pope “said three times […] that a great part of Church marriages are invalid because of a lack of faith. […] Sometimes [one] goes to a wedding and it looks more like a social function than a sacrament. […] When young people say ‘forever,’ who knows what they mean by ‘forever.’”

For the head of the Catholic Church, this must be “taken into account” when considering access to the Eucharist. Some couples whose marriages are null “may not be able to prove it,” he worried, advising them “to go to their bishop, to present their situation to him.”

His knee is recovering

A year after the Pope’s knee problems affected his mobility, Francis recounts his therapy: “my tendons were hurting, due to inflammation, it seems, and I was walking badly. And that bad walking broke a bone in my knee.”

The Pontiff was reluctant to have another operation after his colon surgery in July 2021, until a physical therapist suggested an alternative treatment through laser technology and magnetic therapy. “He managed to weld the bone. Now I am rehabilitating all that, that is to say, stretching the tendons, the muscles. The bone is fine,” he said.

Issues across the world today

In answering several questions about international issues, the Pope confirmed his willingness to visit Russia, which he has said many times since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. He reports that he received from the Moscow ambassador to the Holy See “a very correct answer […] that yes, of course, but later.” 

He welcomes the fact that “several leaders” are working for peace in Ukraine, believing that Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, “can do something.”

“There is an Israeli group that is making good progress,” he said without adding more.

Pope Francis also remembered other places suffering from conflicts and instability such as Yemen, Goma in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda. He also denounced the situation in Nicaragua (to read our article on the subject click here).

Speaking about Venezuela, the Pontiff said that while a UN report criticizes Nicolás Maduro’s government for failure to respect human rights, he remains hopeful. “It is the historical circumstances that will force them to change their way of dialogue. […] I never close the door to possible solutions,” he said.

Other topics: Watching TV, his death, and his home country of Argentina…

The 86-year-old Pope, who mentioned that he does not watch television, does not have a cellphone, and writes only by hand, also talked about death, which he said he does not fear. “I know it will come. Once when I thought there might be a risk, I prepared myself, when I had to do the [colon] operation, which was risky. But I asked the Lord not to catch me unaware, not that.”

To express his hope for mercy, he refers to a medieval capital in the Basilica of Vézelay in France, where “on one side there is Judas hanging and the devil pulling him down. On the other side is the good shepherd, who takes him away with an ironic smile. That is the drama: who wins in the end. And this one wins. Always.”

To see this image and read more about the Pope’s thought, see this:

Finally, the Argentine pontiff, who has not returned to his country of origin since his election, assures that there is “no refusal to go […], not at all” and that he remains “open to the opportunity.”

ArgentinaPope FrancisVatican
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