And more about some Byzantine rite priests and their kids in Italia...interesting because these are married priests who have allegiance to Rome. Honestly, there are so many variations in this movement, it's hard for a humble laywoman to keep it all straight! ;-)
By Malcolm Moore,
This Christmas, high in the mountains of Calabria in southern Italy, a handful of Catholic priests will be able to celebrate Mass and then sit down to dinner with their families.
The 15 married priests who live in Lungro make up one of only two dioceses in Italy whose priests are able to get married with the blessing of the Vatican.
It was in the 15th century that the Pope permitted a group of Albanian refugees to keep their Orthodox traditions in return for allegiance to Rome, exempting them from the rule of celibacy. In the run-up to Christmas, The Sunday Telegraph was granted special access to observe Mass in Lungro's Byzantine Cathedral, together with the priests and their children – a combination that would be unthinkable across most of the Catholic Church.
Their effectiveness is under scrutiny because of a fierce debate in Catholic circles over whether all priests should be allowed to have families of their own.
During the service, the priests' wives and children sat with the choir, watching them chant the rites in Greek. The children strained their necks to glimpse their fathers as the priests approached the altar, which was hidden from public view in the Eastern way.
Afterwards, the families streamed out to meet them in a cathedral aisle. Father Marius Barbat watched as his six-year-old son, Adrian, playfully blocked the path of the priest carrying the chalice from the altar.
"It should be normal for priests to be married," said Fr Barbat, who arrived from Romania two years ago. "In my country, there are lots of married priests and they are accepted by the community."
Father Pietro Lanza, the head of a new seminary nearby which aims to train more married men to be clergy, said his Albanian ancestors had fled to Lungro to escape a Turkish invasion in the 1400s.
Now, with Pope Benedict keen to refresh ties with the Orthodox Church, Lungro, with its 3,000 inhabitants, has become an important symbol of unity between Rome and Constantinople.
At the Pope's direction, senior cardinals are considering the issue of celibacy, given the dramatic fall in the number of people who are training to be priests: just 5,000 in Italy, compared with more than 30,000 during an average year in the 1960s.
Insiders say that the main obstacle to change is now economic – including concern over the potential cost of priests' widows' pensions.
However, in Lungro only one thing is on the agenda this weekend. The priests are preparing to celebrate the birth of the infant Christ, with their own children firmly in tow.