Optional priestly celibacy, ordination of married men, the crisis of faith, future apostolic journeys: Pope Francis discusses all these subjects in an interview published on March 9, 2017 in the German weekly Die Zeit. Vatican Radio made a summary in French of this first interview granted to the German media.
“I’m a sinner, I can be mistaken” headlined ZEIT. In the interview, the Pontiff confided: “I don’t have the impression of being an exceptional man (. . .) I’m just a man who does what he can.”
Optional Celibacy and Viri Probati
He referred to the lack of vocations, “a problem the Church must resolve.” To address it, he recommends prayer but also, as he has explained several times, social work with young people “who are the great forgotten ones of modern society as they don’t have work in numerous countries.”
However, the lack of priests should not lead to suspend discernment, he cautions: “Today there are so many youths and then, those who will ruin the Church because they are not priests by vocation. The vocation is important.”
“Optional celibacy isn’t the solution,” assured the Pope, who thinks that the ordination of married men — viri probati — is a possibility to be studied. “But one must also decide the sort of tasks they must assume, for instance, for the isolated communities.”
The Forthcoming Apostolic Journeys
In the course of the interview, the Holy Father enumerated the apostolic journeys to come: he confirmed trips to India, Bangladesh and Colombia. As he did during his visit to the Anglican Church of Rome, he expressed the wish to go to South Sudan. A trip to Egypt is also being studied.
Certain destinations he would like to go to are difficult to implement at the moment, he specified: Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia, which implies going also to Ukraine.
Questioned about the crisis of faith, the Pontiff stressed that “Faith is not an acquisition” but “a gift” and that “crisis is part of the life of faith.” Thus, “a faith that doesn’t enter in crisis to grow” remains “infantile.”
The Pope, who affirmed he is at peace, explained that he prays for the grace “of a sense of humor,: and to react jokingly to the affair of the anonymous pamphlets directed against him, the placards in the streets of Rome: “ the romanaccio (a Roman dialect) used in those manifestos was magnificent.”
In regard to the recent crisis between the Holy See and the Order of Malta, Pope Francis hopes for the solution of problems. “It is why I appointed a delegate capable of resolving it, with a charism that Cardinal Burke doesn’t have,” the latter remaining nevertheless, Patron of the Order. It’s Monsignor Angelo Becciu, Substitute for General Affairs of the State Secretariat, who was appointed papal delegate last February 4.
In a first summary made by Zenit yesterday, the Pope also expressed his concern given the mounting populisms in Western Europe and his rejection of a papal cult.