Pope Francis said in an interview that he is open to married men becoming Catholic priests.
In the interview, conducted by German newspaper Die Zeit, Francis said that the lack of Catholic priests worldwide was an “enormous problem” for the church and that he was open to the rules of eligibility changing to allow married men to enter the priesthood.
“We need to consider if ‘viri probati’ could be a possibility,” he said, CNN reported. “If so, we would need to determine what duties they could undertake, for example, in remote communities.”
Viri probati is a Latin term that refers to married men of outstanding faith.
Francis’ rule on married men as priests would allow men who are currently married into the priesthood, but would not allow single men who are priests to marry.
“Voluntary celibacy is not a solution,” he stated.
In the interview, which was conducted days before the fourth anniversary of Francis becoming Pope, the pontiff admitted to having “moments of emptiness” himself.
“One cannot grow without crises: in human life, the same thing happens. Even biological growth is a crisis, no? The crisis of a child who becomes an adult. And faith is the same,” he said, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Francis has often been criticized by conservative-leaning Catholics who disagree with how he approaches governing the church.
“I understand that someone might not like [my] way of acting, and I even justify it: there are so many ways of thinking,” he said. The pontiff also acknowledged the rise in populist governments across the West.
“Populism is evil and ends badly as the past century showed,” he said.
Since President Donald Trump has taken office, Francis has made several digs at him for his policies and rhetoric — even referencing his proposed Mexican border wall.
“In the social and civil context as well, I appeal not to create walls, but to build bridges,” he said in a weekly statement in early February, The Hill reported. “To not respond to evil with evil. To defeat evil with good, the offense with forgiveness. A Christian would never say ‘you will pay for that.’ Never. That is not a Christian gesture. An offense you overcome with forgiveness. To live in peace with everyone.”
Francis went even further following a trip to Mexico, when he made a more pointed statement regarding Trump’s wall.
“A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian,” he said. “I’d just say that this man is not Christian if he said it this way.”
Trump responded: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,” he said. “No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”