Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor added that celibacy had been a gift to the Church

A retired English cardinal has said that he would ask Rome to ordain married men as Catholic priests.

Speaking on a Radio 4 documentary which is due to be broadcast tonight Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said: “If I were a bishop of a diocese that had a very small number of priests … I would ask permission I think of Rome to ordain suitable married men. But I think it’s got to be done very carefully because I think celibacy is a great gift to the church. But circumstances may I think … may impel bishops and bishops conferences to ordain married men.”

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The interview took place before the resignation of Bishop Kieran Conry.

The cardinal, who retired in 2009, said that celibacy had been “a great advantage to the Catholic Church over the last at least 10 centuries”. He said:”Secondly, I’d say it’s not a dogma. Therefore it can be changed.”

Francis: The Pope’s Calling will be broadcast tonight at 8pm on Radio 4.