Pope Francis has said he is willing to consider ordaining older married men in isolated communities, but has ruled out making priestly celibacy optional to tackle a shortage of clergy.
The shortage has prompted calls from some progressives to end the ancient tradition of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests
Such a move would represent revolutionary change for the Catholic Church and would likely face massive resistance.
Reformers, however, have long suggested that the Vatican could ordain "viri probati" — Latin for men of proven character — who tend to be older, with grown-up families if married.
In an interview with Germany's Die Zeit newspaper, the pope said this option could be considered.