Irish priests' group hails news Pope may let married men be clerics
AN organisation representing Catholic priests in Ireland has welcomed a report that the Pope could be poised to allow married priests back into ministry.
It is believed Pope Francis is receptive to the idea as a way of rectifying the shortage of priests in Brazil.
Fr Brendan Hoban, of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, said the move was needed "quickly" as the "reality is the Church is imploding".
When joining the Catholic priesthood, clerics take a vow of lifelong celibacy and must leave the priesthood if they wish to marry.
It has been reported the Pope has been lobbied by bishops in Brazil who have asked him to consider allowing married priests back into the fold.
The claim was made by Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian Marxist theologian and writer, following a conversation he said he had with Cardinal Walter Kasper, a confidant of Pope Francis.
Mr Boff, who left the priesthood in the 1990s, said: "Married priests may be again engaged in pastoral care. That is an explicit request from the Brazilian bishops to the Pope.
"I have heard that the Pope wants to meet this request for now and for a certain experimental period in Brazil."
He added that if married priests were allowed to return, it would be a sign that the "Catholic church now loosens the fetters of obligatory celibacy".
Fr Hoban welcomed the report on Tuesday and said the Church should accept married men to return to the priesthood in Ireland a bid to tackle the decline in the number of priests.
"The reality is the Church is imploding, we have priests aged in their 60s, 70s and 80s who are having to work longer, to work harder than ever before and under more and more stress and possibly depression," he said.
"The church is suffering and it is getting to the point that if something doesn't happen soon, we are going to see a Eucharistic famine in years to come.
"Some parishes have survived for centuries, but that may not be for much longer. Basically we are shooting ourselves in the foot if we do not tackle this issue quickly."