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Pope Francis addresses Catholic Church's priest shortage

Pope Francis waves to the crowd at St. Peter's Square on March 1 in Vatican City. In an interview with a German newspaper, the pope addressed possible solutions to the priest shortage. Francis said the first step is prayer. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)

The Catholic Church is currently experiencing a shortage of priests. Pope Francis addressed possible solutions to the shortage in an interview with the German publication Die Zeit published Wednesday.

Francis said the first step is prayer.

“The first [response] – because I speak as a believer – the Lord told us to pray. Prayer, prayer is missing,” Francis said.

In the interview, the pope's first with a German journalist, he said that in order to address a shortage of priests, the church must work with youth and address the low birth rates in many countries.

“If there are no young men, there can be no priests,” he said.

Asked if viri probati — men of proven faith who are already married — could perform the same roles as priests in the future, Francis expressed openness to studying the possibility.

“We must think yes, viri probati are a possibility,” he said. “But then we must also consider what tasks they could perform, for example, in isolated communities.”

The Catholic Church requires priests to remain celibate, although there are some exceptions made for Anglican priests who are already married and convert to Catholicism and members of the eastern rite Catholic Church.

If that requirement were to be relaxed, Francis indicated, it would apply only to men who are already married, allowing them to be ordained as priests. It would not allow men who are already priests to marry.

Without priests, Francis said, “the Church is weakened, because a Church without the Eucharist doesn’t have strength; the Church makes the Eucharist, but the Eucharist also makes the Church.”

“The problem of vocations is a serious problem,” he said.

During the interview, Francis also condemned the rise of populism in Western societies.

“Populism is evil and ends badly, as the past century has shown,” he said, adding that such political movements turn to false saviors.

“Behind populism there is always a messianism: always,” he said.

Asked if he has ever experienced a moment in which he doubted the existence of God, the pope replied, "I, too, know moments of emptiness." He added that believers can use these moments to grow in their faith.

“One can’t grow without crisis … crisis is part of the life of faith; a faith which doesn’t enter into crisis to grow, remains juvenile,” he said.

(H/T: Catholic News Agency)

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