Pope Celibacy Rule for Priests Changing? Francis I Considers 1,000-Year-Old Tradition

Pope Francis arrives in Saint Peter's Square for his inaugural mass at the Vatican, March 19, 2013. Pope Francis celebrates his inaugural mass on Tuesday among political and religious leaders from around the world and amid a wave of hope for a renewal of the scandal-plagued Roman Catholic Church. | (Photo: Reuters/Max Rossi)

The issue of celibacy among priests in the Catholic Church has been debated for decades, but a previous interview by Pope Francis I may indicate that the new pontiff is willing to consider changing the Church's policy.

The focus of celibacy within the Church was brought about after comments were found in the Spanish book "On the Heavens and the Earth" that were made by the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In the book, he discussed his inner struggle to continue seminary over pursuing a girl he had met during a relative's wedding.

"I was dazzled by a girl I met at an uncle's wedding … I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance ... and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while," Pope Francis said, as translated by the Catholic newspaper Aleteia.

"I kept thinking and thinking about her. When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head. I had to rethink what I was doing," he added.

Pope Francis previously stated that he understood the conflict aspiring priests may have with leading a celibate life.

"When something like this happens to a seminarian, I help him go in peace to be a good Christian and not a bad priest … In the Western Church to which I belong, priests cannot be married as in the Byzantine, Ukrainian, Russian or Greek Catholic Churches. In those Churches, the priests can be married, but the bishops have to be celibate. They are very good priests," Pope Francis previously said.

The openness to which Pope Francis was able to discuss the issue of celibacy may have come as a bit of a shock to others in the Church, but it is not necessarily an indication that the rule will be changed during his papacy.

The current pope's predecessors have forgone addressing the issue, maintaining that it has been a part of the Church for over 1000 years.

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