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WATCH — SA Bishop on possibility for married clergy

A retired South African bishop, Fritz Lobinger, was mentioned by Pope Francis during his in-flight press conference returning from World Youth Day festivities in Central America. Ricardo da Silva SJ, caught up with Lobinger at his home in Mariannhill to speak to him about the Pope’s remarks on the possibility for married clergy in the Roman Catholic Church.

On the return flight from World Youth Day in Panama in his usual mid-air press conference, Pope Francis was questioned on the status of celibacy for priests of the Roman Catholic rite.

The Pope was emphatic in response to journalist Caroline Pigozzi, saying “celibacy is a gift” and that “I [Pope Francis] do not agree with permitting optional celibacy, no.” However, he stated that this was his personal stance. And, that the church had some possibilities for priestly ministry in “very far places” and that this is “something to study, rethink and pray about”.

But, the Pope carefully qualified his comment on the possibility for viri probati (married clergy) . He cited a thesis by a South African bishop investigating the possibility where “you can ordain an older married man […] that celebrate[s] the Mass, that administer[s] the sacrament of reconciliation and of unction.”

WATCH OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Fritz Lobinger, bishop emeritus of Aliwal North

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.


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Ricardo da Silva SJ
Ricardo is a member of the South African region of the Jesuits and an ordained deacon of the Roman Catholic Church. In 2020, he received a master's degree in journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York, where he was an African Pulitzer Fellow and reported on religion, mental health, housing and other social injustices. Before moving to the U.S.A., Ricardo served as acting editor of and was on the team at Jesuit Institute South Africa. His preparation for ministry as a Jesuit has taken him to study theology in Brazil, philosophy in the U.K and brief working stints in Zimbabwe and Spain. As a Jesuit, he has ministered to refugees, migrants, people experiencing street homelessness, young adults, seminarians, the elderly, and high school and university students, staff and faculty. Before entering religious life in 2007, Ricardo worked in marketing, communications, and brand management before joining the Jesuits in 2007. Ricardo holds dual citizenship, having emigrated from Portugal to South Africa at the age of six with his mother.

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