Pope Francis greets a crowd on his way to a meeting with cardinals at the Vatican on Feb. 21, 2014. RNS photo by David Gibson.
Pope Francis likes to say that he prefers to raise questions rather than issue edicts or change doctrine, and he has certainly generated plenty of debate with his off-the-cuff remarks about gays and his cold-call chats on topics like divorce and Communion, as happened recently with a woman in Argentina.
Now a recent conversation between the pope and a bishop from Brazil about the priest shortage may be moving the issue of married clergy onto the pontiff’s agenda.
It began when Bishop Erwin Krautler, an Austrian-born bishop who heads a sprawling diocese in the Brazilian rain forest, had a private audience with Francis on April 4 in the Vatican.
During the meeting, Krautler and Francis compared notes on how much the priest shortage affects the church, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. Krautler’s diocese, geographically the largest in Brazil, has just 27 priests for 700,000 Catholics, most of whom might attend Mass a couple of times a year.