first_imgROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS should be able to marry and have children, Britain’s most senior cardinal said on Friday.Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who will be part of the conclave tasked with chosing a new pope to replace Benedict XVI, said the church’s requirement for priests to be celibate was not of “divine origin” and should be reconsidered.“Many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood, and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family of their own,” the 74-year-old told the BBC.“The celibacy of the clergy, whether priests should marry — Jesus didn’t say that.“There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the church — in some branches of the Catholic church — priests can get married,” he added.“So that is obviously not of divine origin and it could get discussed again.”O’Brien will have a say in who succeeds Benedict after he stands down on February 28.He said he had not yet decided who should take over leadership of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, but suggested it could be time for a younger pontiff, possibly from the developing world.“I would be open to a pope from anywhere if I thought it was the right man, whether it was Europe or Asia or Africa or wherever,” he added.Benedict stunned the world last week by becoming the first pope in more than 700 years to resign voluntarily.No clear favourite has emerged, although the 85-year-old’s announcement that he lacked the strength to lead the church indicates the need for a younger pope.- © AFP, 2013last_img