In response to the interviewer’s inquiry if the pope thought that making celibacy optional would lead more people to join the priesthood, Pope Francis said: “I do not think so,” noting that there are already married priests in the Catholic Church in the Eastern rites.
The pope added that earlier that day he had met with an Eastern Catholic priest who works in the Roman Curia who has a wife and a son.
Pope Francis has spoken about the value of priestly celibacy before. In January 2019 he said: “Personally, I think that celibacy is a gift to the Church. I would say that I do not agree with allowing optional celibacy, no.”
The pope added at the time that he thinks there is room to consider some exceptions for married clergy in the Latin rite “when there is a pastoral necessity” in remote locations due to a lack of priests, such as in the Pacific islands.
The nearly one-hour-long interview published Friday with Infobae, a Miami-based Spanish-language online news outlet, also touched on Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship in Nicaragua, drug trafficking in Latin America, the war in Ukraine, and marriage annulments.
When speaking of annulments, Pope Francis advised to look to what his predecessor Benedict XVI had said on the subject and said that “a large part of church marriages are invalid for lack of faith.”