Pope Francis thought about ditching priesthood after being 'dazzled by beautiful girl' at wedding
According to a transcript of a 2012 interview which emerged yesterday, the then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio revealed that he met a stunning young woman at his uncle's wedding.
"I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance . . . and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while," he said.
After the wedding, he returned to his priestly studies but admits: "I kept thinking and thinking about her. When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head. I had to rethink what I was doing.
"I was still free because I was a seminarian, so I could have gone back home and that was it. I had to think about my choice again. I chose again – or let myself be chosen by – the religious path.
"It would be abnormal for this kind of thing not to happen," he said in a Spanish language interview obtained by Catholic news website Aleteia.org.
The woman is a different person to the eldery woman who has already spoken about their friendship in their childhood years.
Early media reports suggested that Pope Francis had been engaged to be married before entering seminary.
However, the woman in question, Amalia Damonte (76), said they had a friendship when both were 12-years-old but "these were childish things, nothing more".
However, despite that experience, the future Pope remained convinced about the value of mandatory celibacy for Catholic priests.
"For the moment, I am in favour of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons, because we have 10 centuries of good experiences rather than failures." However, he also said: "It is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change."
In the same interview, carried out by a Jewish Rabbi in Spanish, the future Pontiff praised what he described as the "zero tolerance" approach to clerical abuse in Ireland of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.
When allegations of abuse against a priest or religious are made, he said, "we must never turn a blind eye".
"You cannot be in a position of power and destroy the life of another person," he said.
Turning to the scandals in the Irish church, he said "recently, there were cases uncovered in Ireland from about 20 years ago, and the present Pope (Benedict XVI) clearly said: 'Zero tolerance for that crime'.
"I admire the courage and uprightness of Pope Benedict," Cardinal Bergoglio said.