Pope in an interview: Celibacy is revisable

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Pope Francis does not believe that exempting celibacy would ensure more priestly vocations. However, the celibacy of the Western Church is not set in stone, the head of the Church indicated in an interview with the Argentine news portal Infobae. Francis also spoke about the Church’s relationship with homosexuals and remarried divorcees.

The Pope reminded me that the Eastern Catholic Church priests are mostly married men. Also, working in the Curia is such a clergyman who is a family man. “There is no contradiction in the fact that a priest can marry,” Francis said verbatim. In the Western Church, he said, celibacy is a disciplinary issue, “a temporary regulation” and thus “provisional,” unlike ordination, which is permanent. In response to the interviewer’s question about whether celibacy could therefore be revised, Francis answered in the affirmative, referring to the Eastern Church. However, he doubted whether exempting celibacy would make it easier for men to choose the priesthood: “I don’t think so,” Francis said.

Another time in the interview, the Pope spoke out in favour of the Church dealing openly with homosexuals. Asked if he would give communion to such people, Francis said, “The great answer Jesus gave: everybody. Everybody. All in.” The Pope referred to the parable of the banquet, where the guests and the host eventually opened his house to all. “And everyone clarifies his position before the Lord with the strength he has,” Francis said. “This is a church of sinners. I don’t know where the Church of the saints is; we are all sinners here. And who am I to judge a person if he has good will?” The Pope advised getting “back to the core of the Gospel:” “Jesus calls everyone, and everyone resolves their relationship with God as they can or want. Sometimes you want to, and can’t, but the Lord is always waiting.”
“I advise separated couples to go to their bishop and tell him about their situation.”

Francis also gave a pastoral response to a question about allowing remarried divorcees to receive communion. The Church considers sacramental marriage indissoluble, so believers who enter into a civil second marriage after a civil divorce face a conflict. “We cannot reduce a human situation to a rule,” Francis explained. He said his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had repeatedly emphasized that “a large part of marriages in the Church are invalid because faith is lacking” and that the bride and groom do not even know what is meant by “forever” in the final analysis. Catholic remarried divorcees sometimes “may not be able to prove” that their sacramental marriage was invalid, but at that point, “the conscience of the bishop comes into play. I advise separated couples to go to their bishop and explain their situation.”

Francis had noted in a footnote in his letter “Amoris Laetitia” (2016), following two synods of bishops on the family, that remarried divorcees may also receive the “help of the sacraments” in some circumstances. After various debates, Francis published a letter to that effect and guidance in the Official Gazette of the Holy See a few months later, with the addition by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin that the texts were “authentic Magisterium” and therefore binding.

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