Pope reveals he may allow married men to join the priesthood
Pope Francis has signalled that he would be prepared to consider allowing married men to be ordained.
The pontiff said the Catholic Church must study whether it is possible to ordain married men to minister in remote communities facing priest shortages.
In an interview published with Germany's Die Zeit, Francis stressed that removing the celibacy rule is not the answer to the Catholic Church's priest shortage.
But he expressed an openness to studying whether so-called "viri probati" - or married men of proven faith - could be ordained.
"We must consider if viri probati is a possibility. Then we must determine what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote communities," he was quoted as saying.
The "viri probati" proposal has been around for decades, but has drawn fresh attention under history's first Latin American pope thanks in part to his appreciation of the challenges facing the Church in places such as Brazil, which has a shortage of priests.
Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a longtime friend and former head of the Vatican's office for clergy, is reportedly pressing to allow viri probati in the Amazon, where the Church counts around one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.
Pope Francis has shown particular openness to receiving concrete proposals for ordaining married men as well as his own pastoral concern for men who have left ministry to marry.
He has also said that while he favours a celibate priesthood, celibacy technically can be up for discussion since it is a discipline of the Church, not a dogma.
In the interview, Pope Francis also confirmed Colombia was on his travel plans for 2017, as well as India and Bangladesh. He ruled out Congo, which had been rumoured, but mentioned Egypt as a possibility.