A group of Italian woman who are in love with Catholic priests have appealed to Pope Francis to re-examine the rules on priestly celibacy. The 26 women, who signed with only their Christian names, wrote to the Pope saying it was hypocritical for priests to live a “secret life”.

They wrote: “We are a group of women from all over Italy who write to you to break the wall of silence and indifference that we are faced with every day. Each of us is in or wishes to have a loving relationship with a priest with whom she has fallen in love.
“Few people realise the devastating suffering of a woman who goes through the powerful experience of falling in love with a priest. With humility, we place before you this problem so that something might change not only for us, but for the good of the Church.”
The women went on: “We love these men, they love us. Even with all the will in the world, these solid and beautiful relationships cannot be broken. The only two choices then are leave the priesthood or have a secret relationship.”
Partly blaming the Church for putting them and their lovers in an impossible position, they said: “It could be seen as hypocritical for priests to remain unmarried while having a relationship with a woman, but unfortunately it’s not uncommon for them to have to make this painful choice.”
Because celibacy is a church regulation and not a dogma it could be changed by papal decree. Married Anglican priests who have converted to Catholicism are already allowed to practise as married Catholic priests. One of Italy’s most senior bishops, Nunzio Galantino, said last week that the Church should be able to discuss the topic of priestly celibacy “without taboo”.
In Germany last month a priest in the diocese of Bamberg wrote an open letter to Pope Francis asking to be released from his vow of celibacy. Fr Stefan Hartmann admitted he had failed to keep to his vow but said he wanted to remain a Catholic priest in active service. "Celibacy is an anachronism which is doing a lot of harm to many people and to the Church," he wrote.