POPE Francis has 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, the Pontiff stressed that removing the celibacy rule is not the answer to the Catholic Church’s priest shortage.

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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.