Pope: Terrified of bloodbath in Venezuela, won't pick sides

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis says celibacy is not optional for priests, describing it a "gift to the church".

Pope Francis, flanked by Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti (R) anwers journalists questions in the plane following the take off from Panama City on January 27, 2019 after participating in World Youth Day.

Pope Francis on Sunday definitively ruled out any chance that he would change the Roman Catholic rule requiring priests to be celibate.

The Pope said that he personally feels that celibacy of the priests and nuns is a great gift to the church. "I'd rather give my life before changing the law on celibacy", Francis said.

Proponents of a relaxation of the rule say more men would consider a vocation to the priesthood if they could marry, a surefire fix to the decline in priests globally.

But opponents say celibacy allows a priest to dedicate himself entirely to the Church.

Paul VI was the author of the encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, which defends priestly celibacy, published in 1967.

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Pope John Paul II made that change in church policy in 1980 in response to a shortage of available priests in certain areas. At the same time, he emphasized that his personal opinion was against making celibacy a choice candidates made as they prepared for ordination: "Optional celibacy before the diaconate, no ..." This remains clear. Perhaps I'm close-minded.

"This came to my mind and I want to say it because it is a courageous line; he said it in 1968-1970 at a more hard moment than the present time", Francis said.

Priests are allowed to marry in the Orthodox and Eastern Rite Churches as well as Protestant and Anglican Churches.

Francis' openness to considering the prospect of allowing older married men to become priests is not without precedent.

Such men would be elderly, outstanding members of the local Catholic community and with grown-up children.

"The issue must be open for places where there is a pastoral problem because of the lack of priests". "I'm not saying it should be done, because I haven't reflected or prayed enough about it".

He mentioned the problems of ministering to Catholics in remote areas such as Pacific Island and the Amazon.

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