Pope Francis talks to reporters aboard the papal flight on his way back to the Vatican from Jerusalem May 26, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Medichini
Pope Francis has unwittingly renewed discussions and debate on celibacy among Roman Catholic priests during a talk with reporters aboard his plane on Monday night to return to Rome.
"Celibacy is not a dogma of faith," Pope Francis declared in a session with reporters traveling in his plane from the Holy Land to Rome on Monday night. "It is a rule of life that I appreciate a great deal, and I believe it is a gift for the church. The door is always open."
When translated, it simply means that Roman Catholic clergy members are not required to abstain from sex.
"He wants to move the church as rapidly as possible to reform, but he also does not want to split the church in two," Charles Reid, a canon lawyer and professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, told North Jersey Media.
A tradition going back around 1,000 years, priests are taught to dedicate himself totally to his vocation. And in order to fulfill the Church's mission, priests should take and consider the latter as their spouse.
Early this year, Pope Francis received a letter from a group of women who said they were in relationships with priests. They pleaded the pope to change the celibacy requirement. "Each of us is in, was or would like to start a relationship with a priest we are in love with," the women wrote.
Reid believed the pope is strongly considering revising the requirement but is nonetheless cautious of shaking the system that has existed for years.
"You need to build that momentum, because you have an awful lot of men who are deeply invested in the status quo," Reid said. "They've lived their whole lives like this."