Pope Francis has said that the Church should reflect on whether the “Holy Spirit” is demanding married priests.

In an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit, the Pope was asked about the shortage of vocations in some dioceses.

He referred to the idea of viri probati, in which married laymen recognised as potential leaders are ordained as priests.

Pope Francis said: “We have to reflect about whether the viri probati are a possibility. Then we also have to determine which tasks they could have, for example in far distant parishes.” The Pope said it was “important to recognise the right moment, to recognise when the Holy Spirit demands something.”

A few months ago, the Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff said he had heard that the Pope might introduce a trial period for viri probati in Brazil.

The Pope also discussed the possibility of female deacons, saying that theologians should study the example of Scripture. “What did this mean at that time [of the Bible]? What does it mean today?” he asked, adding: “Don’t be afraid! That makes us free.”

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