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Connecticut Catholics respond to Pope’s openness to married priests

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STONINGTON – During this holy season of Lent, Pope Francis is discussing breaking with a Catholic tradition.

Pope Francis said he is open to married men becoming priests to combat the Roman Catholic Church's shortage of clergy.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit, Pope Francis said the lack of Catholic priests was an "enormous problem" for the Church, and indicated he would be open to a change in the rules governing eligibility for the priesthood.

"We need to consider if 'viri probati' could be a possibility," he said. "If so, we would need to determine what duties they could undertake, for example, in remote communities."

Viri probati is the Latin term for "tested men" or married men of outstanding faith and virtue.

The option would allow men who are already married to be ordained as priests. But single men who are already priests would not be allowed to marry, according to the Pope.

In Stonington, a group of Catholics reacted to the idea, while gathering to honor a different Catholic tradition. The Portuguese Holy Ghost Society (PHGS) serves fish & chips and other seafood dishes for Catholics abstaining from eating meat on Fridays during Lent.

Mike Barney, who sits on the PGHS board of directors, said “Why not?” to the idea of allowing married priests.

“If you’re a good person, you don’t necessarily have to be single,” said Barney.

Mystic resident Mary Kluepfel said it would make the church more inclusive and bring in more priests.

“I think it’s a great thing,” she said. “I think people are meant to be a family. It’s much more settling for them than to have to live alone in a little room. That’s not fair.”

Larry DeSantos, a PHGS member and lifelong Catholic, said he’d be open to the idea, but doesn’t think he’ll see it in his lifetime.

“They are so conservative in the Vatican. They look at priests being married as a huge, huge break from the Catholic Church, a huge break from tradition, and to get enough votes to get that done, I just don’t see that happening. I just don’t,” he said.

DeSantos said he’d also supports women becoming priests.

He said, “I’m sure there are women that could be really good priests, but that’s a tough one. I don’t see that happening in my children’s lifetime to tell you the truth.”