Time to end celibacy and ban on females in priesthood: cleric
A Londonderry priest has called on the Catholic Church to acknowledge changing times and "take another look" at its position on celibacy and women priests.
Fr Paddy O'Kane, of Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty, said such a move could help address a growing crisis which has left a quarter of parishes around the world without a resident priest.
"Many priests might choose to be celibate, but for those who want to get married it should be an option," he added.
Fr O'Kane warned the shortage of clergy is impacting on dioceses across Ireland. "Priest-less parishes are appearing all over Ireland and may be here in this diocese before long," he added.
"The Church needs to adapt to these changing times. We may have to take another look at celibacy and women priests."
Writing for Derry Now, Fr O'Kane also hinted that Pope Francis may soon fulfil a special request by Brazilian bishops to allow married Anglican converts to resume their priestly ministries.
Such a move in a country which has 140 million Catholics would alleviate the severe problem which is also manifesting itself throughout Ireland.
Earlier this year the Pope said he may consider ordaining married men - under very specific circumstances - to counter the shortage of clergy, but ruled out dropping celibacy as a requirement for the priesthood.
"This year the national seminary in Maynooth had only eight students entering to study for the priesthood - half of these will probably leave during their training," Fr O'Kane said.
The priest admitted that while his own celibacy had allowed him to live a life devoted to serving others, it had come at a personal cost.
"There are times I miss having a family and there are many times of loneliness and there have been times I have only held on to my faith by a hair's breadth," he said.
Fr O'Kane also expressed surprise at the number of pilgrims he has encountered who support a change in position.