On March 8, a German newspaper published an interview with Pope Francis in which he commented again on the possibility of opening priestly ordination to "viri probati
" or "proven men." While stating that optional celibacy is not a possibility, Pope Francis indicated that ordaining married men in remote places where there are too few priests may be a possibility.
In November 2016, Pope Francis visited with seven families
where the fathers had served as parish priests. His visit created speculation that the next synod would focus on married priests. In December 2016, theologian Leonardo Boff
predicted that the Pope would open ordination to married men in a few regions. Two Brazilian bishops, Jaime Vieira Rocha and Erwin Kräutler have been requesting "viri probati" priests for large areas of the Amazon where it has been reported that there are only 27 priests serving 700,000 Catholics. Cardinal Claudio Humes
, former prefect of the Congregation for Clergy and one of Pope Francis' closest colleagues, is reported to be pressing Pope Francis on the issue.
Francis also went into great detail about the genesis of the commission to study women deacons saying that when they meet again in March he wants to learn first hand where things stand.
Francis rightly acknowledged the vast contributions of many lay women faithfully serving their communities. And as the possibility of ordination to the priesthood is expanded to include "viri probati", it would be a tragedy if women's ministries and contributions were somehow diminished. As the women of Killaloe diocese in Ireland made clear
when facing the restoration of the male diaconate, "what was needed in the Catholic church was not another layer of male-only clergy but arrangements which could accommodate all." We hope and pray that opening priestly ordination to "viri probati" will be accompanied with an equal effort to fully respect, honor and include women in every form of ministry, leadership and governance.