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Derry cleric calls on church to allow married priests

Well-known Derry priest, Fr Paddy O’Kane says Catholic priests should be allowed to marry.

The parish priest in the city’s Holy Family parish, said that while many priests are happy to be celibate, marriage should be an option.

Fr O’Kane said the Irish church was facing a vocations crisis and that only eight students entered the national seminary at Maynooth to train for the priesthood this year. When he went to Maynooth in 1966, he was one of 80 student priests.

“Priest-less parishes are appearing all over Ireland and may be here in this diocese (Derry) before long. The church needs to adapt to these changing times. We may have to take another look at celibacy and women priests,” he wrote in his Derry News column.

Fr O’Kane said the concept of a married priesthood already existed in the Catholic church and pointed out that a number of former married Anglican ministers converted to Catholicism after their church introduced women priests and bishops. Fr O’Kane said these men continued in their priestly ministry despite being married with families.

He said that while he found his priesthood very fulfilling, he had at times missed having a family and experienced loneliness on occasions.

“There have been times I have only held on to my faith by a hair’s breadth,” he said.

Fr O’Kane suggested the church may change its view on a married clergy.

“In fact, Pope Francis may soon fulfil the Brazilian bishops’ recent special request to allow married priests to resume their priestly ministry, according to liberation theologian, Leonardo Boff.”

Fr O’Kane added: “If the many thousands of priests who have married are once again allowed to practice their ministry, that would be a first step to improving the situation (vocations crisis) but at the same time also in impulse for the church to free itself of the fetters of celibacy.”

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