Irish priests welcome Pope’s reported celibacy hints

A group representing some priests in Ireland has welcomed Pope Francis’s reported hints that he will sort out the celibacy issue.

Association of Catholic Priests spokesman Fr Seamus Ahearne said the Pontiff’s views have been welcomed by the majority of Ireland’s priests.

The ACP represents about 10 per cent of clergy in Ireland.

Earlier this month, Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari reported an interview he did with the Pope in La Repubblica newspaper.

Scalfari, who did not take notes during the interview and relied on memory, reported that the Pope promised to “find solutions” to the “problem” of priestly celibacy.

The Vatican was quick to state that the celibacy comment could not be attributed to the Pope.

But it conceded the report did capture the sense and spirit of the conversation between the Pope and Scalfari.

Fr Ahearne said Francis has a new way of looking at things and it makes total sense.

“We raised the question of celibacy with [Ireland’s] bishops in the early days of June as an issue to be looked at and the fact that Pope Francis has opened that discussion matters,” Fr Ahearne said.

“Our view would be that Christ takes flesh in the messiness of everyday life. The wider the ministry the better, it’s the mixture that is necessary.

“It can’t just be male – old males, celibate males – it has to be a mixture of male, female, young people, old people, married people and unmarried people, anyone.”

Fr Ahearne also told the Sunday Independent newspaper in Ireland that it is now just a matter of time before the Catholic Church begins to reconsider its stance on women being priests.

“I think it’s going to happen eventually,” he said.

“Who would ever have thought that Francis could have been elected?

“Who would ever have thought that the kind of things he is saying could be said? When will it happen? I have no idea, but it should.”

Fr Ahearne said given the age profile of Ireland’s priests, there will be no replacements when they die.

“Priests are going on until they are 75 or 80, when they could be retired at 65. They can’t carry the load.”

Only 12 priests were ordained in Ireland in 2012.


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