The Primate of All Ireland has admitted, on married priests, that “I am very much open to the idea of this, and I think Pope Francis is too”.

Celibacy: “This question is still open. I am open to this question in the Church”

Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin was speaking in the wake of Pope Francis’ Querida Amazonía, the post-Amazon synod apostolic exhortation published February 12 which appeared to close the door, at least in the short term, to the ordination of married men.

In comments on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland program, reported by Irish Central, Martin said February 14 that, with regard to allowing married priests or not:

“This question is still open. I am open to this question in the Church. I think Pope Francis realizes this is a question where there is a lot of divided thinking”.

Silence “to encourage all of us to focus on much bigger questions about Church ministry and organization”

While Martin said he himself “warmly welcomed” Querida Amazonía, he said he recognised “there has been a disappointment that perhaps this was a moment that Pope Francis was going to express his views on the ordination of married men as priests”, something the Pope only ended up glossing over in the exhortation.

“Yes, indeed, the ordination of married in men in a very small area of the world, in the Amazonian region, where some communities are not able to have access to the Eucharist on a frequent basis, is something that people were expecting Pope Francis to deal with”, Martin acknowledged.

“He chose not to mention it actually… He’s actually left the question, I think he’s done so in order to encourage all of us to focus on much bigger questions about Church ministry and organization, the involvement of lay people in the Church, the involvement of women in the Church.

“He calls on the local church there to actually officially recognize these roles in a way which it hasn’t done until now”.

The exhortation, “really a call for the protection of the Earth”

“But I think Pope Francis would be disappointed if this is the issue we are all talking about today”, the Armagh archbishop and leader of Ireland’s Catholics continued.

“His exhortation is a huge cry from the Amazon and a cry from the heart to try to protect that region that is being cruelly destroyed. His exhortation … is really a call for the protection of the Earth”.

“85 percent” of Irish priests “taken aback” and “disappointed” with exhortation’s closure to optional celibacy

Meanwhile, parish priest in Co Laois Father Paddy Byrne told RTÉ Morning Ireland February 13 that he was “taken aback” and “disappointed personally” with the Pope’s latest text.

Byrne said he believes about “about 85 percent” of priests in Ireland share his take on the Pope’s reluctance to tackle married priests and female deacons in the new exhortation.

Though “very positive” in terms of care for the Earth, social justice concerns and the protection of the Amazon and its peoples, Byrne said he thought the exhortation didn’t satisfactorily address the “hunger for the faith” in remote communities.

“At the heart of the response, a community of people in the Amazon region, a huge region, are hungry for faith, that are really alive in their own faith as personally relating to the Lord, and that there seems now to be a self-imposed famine by virtue of alienating women and men to administer the Eucharist for them in that sense of putting that famine and allowing that famine to continue”, Byrne lamented.

The priest said the answer to the Eucharistic “famine” “is very easy, as was presented by the bishops in October“, adding his surprise that Francis did “a real U-Turn on that directive” from the Synod bishops to ordain married permanent deacons to the priesthood.

Pressure on the Pope?

Asked why the Pope might have chosen to ignore the Amazon Synod bishops’ vote for married priests, Byrne said: “I have no doubt that there was a wider influence on him.

“There continues to be real tension in the Church between a model of Church that, certainly in Ireland, isn’t working where rank can come before people.

“This loyalty to an institution that’s extremely clerical that alienates women that maybe doesn’t concern itself where most people are at”, Byrne lamented.

“I think we live in a gray zone where we as the Church have a responsibility to listen and to be present in the bits and pieces of the complex pieces where life is”, the priest explained.

“Eucharistic famine” in Ireland: “We’re facing the exact same reality” as the Amazon

In Ireland, Byrne continued – with the ever more rapidly aging and shrinking numbers of priests – “we’re not far away from the reality of what is being felt by the people in the Amazon region, hungry for the Eucharist”.

“And now, a self-imposed famine is being put upon them”.

“There are probably more bishops in Ireland at the moment than there are young men in the formation for priesthood.

“I think if we don’t change ourselves in this country, we’re facing the exact same reality”, Byrne concluded.

Next on Novena:

‘Querida Amazonía’: Priests, bishops disappointed with Pope for “simply kicking can down road” on celibacy

Amazon Synod exhortation: Vatican cardinal insists Pope “has not resolved” questions of married priesthood, women’s diaconate

Despite Amazon exhortation letdown, German bishops, laity pledge to fight on in synodal path for married priests, female deacons

In Amazon Synod exhortation, Pope puts need for greater Church “inculturation” above married priests, female deacons

“Something very wrong”, “clock is ticking”: “crisis point” in Irish Church reaches apocalyptic level

Tensions boil over in Irish Church as priests, laypeople beg bishops for real reform


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.