Dear Francis, we're in love with priests, please let us marry them
Women in love with Catholic priests are calling for the Pope to change celibacy laws (and why we don't blame them)
A group of women, each of whom declares herself in love with a Catholic priest, has written to Pope Francis begging him to relax the rules on priests and celibacy.
"...we are writing to you to break down the wall of silence and indifference that we are faced with every day," the 26 women wrote in a letter. "Each of us is in, was or would like to start a relationship with a priest we are in love with.
"As you are well aware, a lot has been said by those who are in favour of optional celibacy but very little is known about the devastating suffering of a woman who is deeply in love with a priest.
"We humbly place our suffering at your feet in the hope that something may change, not just for us, but for the good of the entire Church. We love these men, they love us, and in most cases, despite all efforts to renounce it, one cannot manage to give up such a solid and beautiful bond."
The letter goes on to discuss the "soul destroying" nature of separation from their loves; "the consequences are...devastating and both parties are often scarred for life," the women write.
Illicit couples are faced with a choice of "definitive" separation, abandoning the priesthood or engaging in a secret relationship.
"We would...like the men we love to live their priestly vocation fully, serving the community and continue the mission they have been passionately and devotedly engaged in for a great many years," the women assert.
"We wish to stand by their side and support them in their calling which is strengthened by the vital force of love they discovered with us."
While no official response has been made by the Vatican, it is thought to be unlikely that the letter will sway the Church's centuries-old stance on celibacy, despite the Pontiff's own suggestion that the law could potentially "be changed".
The Pope himself admitted in a 2012 interview that he was "dazzled" by a girl he met at a wedding in his youth.
"I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance...and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while," he told Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, in his typical candid style.
"I kept thinking and thinking about her. When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head. I had to rethink what I was doing."
Rather than pursuing a relationship, however, the young Jorge Bergoglio chose instead to follow the "religious path"; a vocation he has been sure of from an early age.
"For the moment, I am in favour of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons, because we have ten centuries of good experiences rather than failures," he added.
"If, for the sake of argument, western Catholicism reviewed the celibacy question I think it would do so for cultural reasons (as in the East), not so much as a universal option...It is a question of discipline, not faith. It can be changed. Personally I never considered marrying."
Should the law be amended, there will no doubt be a queue of women lining up in the hopes of marrying these eligible bachelors, as pictured in photographer Piero Pazzi's annual Roman Priest Calendar:
Sold in souvenir shops in Rome, the calendar features what it deems to be the Catholic Church's best looking priests, most of whom Pazzi just happened to pass in the street.
"I pick them young to signal that their calling is still very much alive," he told Variety magazine.
However, it's not likely you'll find these strapping young priests on Tinder any time soon.
Following the Pope's earlier remarks regarding priestly celibacy, Archbishop Vincent Nichols told BBC Radio Wales, "I don't think for one minute either from his track record or his office that he's about to reconfigure Catholic teaching.
"He is creating a different culture around how the Church faces the world and how it sees the world and maybe how the world sees the Church."