He told the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit: “We must think about whether viri probati are a possibility”.
Still, Pope Francis said the shortage is enough to prompt consideration of married men taking on some roles in the church.
Pope Francis’ admission of his own doubts was perhaps the most striking moment in the interview with Die Ziet’s editor-in-chief, Giovanni di Lorenzo.
However there are 23 Eastern Churches in full communion with the Catholic Church whose clergy are allowed to marry.
Francis explained that while it would allow men who are already married to become priests, single men already in the priesthood would not be allowed to marry.
Viri probati is a Latin term that refers to married men of outstanding faith.
Pope Francis sits on a bus with Catholic clergy on Friday on their way back to the Vatican at the end of a weeklong spiritual retreat at the village of Ariccia, near Rome.
“Then we have to consider what tasks they could perform, for instance in isolated communities”, the pontiff said.
“The law about celibacy is, could be changed and can be changed, and was changed because it was not mandatory (earlier) for our entire history”, said Monsignor Michael Patnode, St. Francis Parish-Moorhead. “The problem is having a more personal relationship with Jesus and being able to discern your vocation”, he said.
There is a severe shortage of Catholic priests in some parts of the world.
The bishop believes this is a long way from reality.
Some Catholic leaders, including Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a friend of the pope, have been pushing for allowing viri probati to work in areas of the Amazon where priests are sparse. “If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church”.
“A person who thinks only about building walls – wherever they may be – and not building bridges, is not Christian”, he said. “He’s calling for more discussion and more study but not immediate decisions”.