Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), the supreme council of the influential Catholic Church has said Pope Francis was giving his personal opinion when he said the church should consider ordaining married men – under very specific circumstances – to address the shortage of Catholic priests.
Father Henry Saindi General Secretary for Episcopal Secretary of Malawi said the church is waiting for an official communication on the matter from Vatican.
“In the absence of an official communication, we take this as an opinion of the Holy See,” said Saindi.
Pope Francis hinted that there was need to ordain married priests to combat the growing scarcity of priests in the world’s biggest church.
He however said the unmarried priests will not be allowed to marry.
Saindi said the Catholic church can only start ordaining married men if there is official communication from the church.
This comes at a time when the church is coming under increased pressure to ordain women in priesthood. Jesus Christ, Catholics believe was the son of God died unmarried so too Paul, believed to be the father of the Catholic Church.
The church, and notably the current pope’s predecessor Benedict XVI, had previously said that celibacy was not a matter of inflexible church dogma unlike, for example, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Despite his remarks on the limited possibility of allowing married men to enter the Church, the Pope ruled out dropping celibacy as a requirement for the priesthood.
He said that voluntary celibacy – giving young priests an option – was “not a solution” to the question.
Campaigners for reform of ordination have, in the past, suggested that married men could supplement the clergy in carrying out priestly duties.
Roman Catholic priests are required to abide by the rule of celibacy upon ordination with very rare exceptions – such as married Anglican ministers who convert.