Pope Francis is allowing a married Lebanese-American man to become a priest.
Wissam Akiki, of Missouri, received a special exemption from the pope that hadn’t been issued for nearly a century.
Akiki was ordained in St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis Thursday night with his wife and 8-year-old daughter by his side.
The Vatican banned this exemption in the U.S. in the 1920s because bishops complained it was too confusing to parishioners. It remained a common practice in the Middle East and Europe.
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"Almost half of our priests in Lebanon are married, so it's not an unusual event in the life of the Maronite church, though in the United States it is," said Deacon Louis Peters, chancellor at St. Raymond's.
"He'll be a wonderful priest," said parishioner Linda Hill, 54. "The fact that he's married will be exciting for the church. It's tradition in the old country. I guess we're finally catching up to the old country."
While the exception doesn’t open the door to non-celibacy for all priests, the move is just one in a string of unprecedented actions taken by Francis.
Last year the pope sparked controversy when he said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
He has encouraged the Church to think outside the box and be more "open."
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods...We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel,” he said in another 2013 interview.
"Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open,” he added, “let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage."