Friend of Pope Francis hopes he'll end priestly celibacy

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- She uses a wheelchair and carries the weight of her 87 years, but Clelia Luro feels powerful enough that the Roman Catholic Church will listen to her campaign to end priestly celibacy.

This woman, whose romance with a bishop and eventual marriage became a major scandal in the 1960s, is such a close friend with Pope Francis that he called her every Sunday when he was Argentina's leading cardinal.

Luro is convinced that he will eventually lead the global church to end mandatory priestly celibacy, a requirement she says "the world no longer understands."

She believes this could resolve a global shortage of priests, and persuade many Catholics who are no longer practicing to recommit themselves to the church.

"I think that in time priestly celibacy will become optional," Luro said in an interview with The Associated Press in her home in Buenos Aires. She had sent an open letter to the pope stating her case. "I'm sure that Francis will suggest it."

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John Paul II, Benedict XVI and other popes before them forbade any open discussion of changing the celibacy rule, and Francis hasn't mentioned the topic since becoming pope last month. -- AP

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