By Devin Bartolotta

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Facing declining numbers of priests in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is considering a radical change to who can enter the priesthood.

Some Catholics in Baltimore are encouraged by the idea of the rules of priesthood changing.

Pope Francis told a German Newspaper that he’s open to allowing married men to become priests. But not allowing current, single priests to marry.

It would be a radical change for the church and add to an ever-shrinking pool of potential clergy.

“The church has certainly been suffering from a shortage of priests in the last 30 years,” said Loyola College Theology Professor Frederick Bauerschmidt. “So I think it certainly could alleviate the shortage of priests.”

The number of priests is declining. From more than 57,000 in 1985, to 49,000 in 1995, down to 37,000 last year, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

Catholics WJZ’s Devin Bartolotta spoke with agree with the pope: if it would help churches in desperate need of clergy, they’re on board.

“I guess if there’s a shortage of priests, there isn’t much choice,” said one Catholic.

“It’s better than having no priests at all. But hopefully, we’ll be able to get more priests.”

“I agree, I think it would be good to allow priests to marry,” said another Catholic. “I think it would certainly help them understand, and I think encourage more people to get into the priesthood.”

It’s the latest instance of Pope Francis, seen by many as ‘progressive’, rethinking some practices within the Catholic Church.

“This shows Pope Francis’ willingness to, if you will, think outside the box,” said Bauerschmidt.

Thinking outside the box, to invite more people in.

The Catholic Church already has some exceptions for married priests, such as those who were once Protestant married priests and converted to Catholicism.

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