TODAY   |  March 22, 2013

Pope Francis wrote frankly about celibacy struggles

The newly installed pope admitted in a book, published last year, that he had been “dazzled” by a young woman while studying to be a priest and calls celibacy “a matter of discipline, not faith,” saying “it can change.” NBC’s Jim Maceda reports.

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>>> this is a question a lot of people are asking this morning, just a few days after the official installation of pope francis , will the church change under his leadership? those who want to get rid of the celibacy requirement for priests are looking hopefully at the pope's admission of past crushes. jim maceda has more.

>> good morning, matt. it turns out francis , the first latin-american pope came to the priesthood at age 32, not before he had his own moments of doubt and temptation. as pope francis emerges, we're learning the former archbishop of buenos aires can be most frank will celibacy and sex.

>> you can marry me. you love me.

>> but i love god more.

>> reporter: like the conflicted catholic priest in the 1980 tv mini series "thornbirds" former jorgeb jorgeber bergoglio said "i could not pray for over a week because when i tried to do the girl appeared in my head." eventually he went into priesthood and swore to celibacy, fulfilling a promise he made to this woman, amalia, once his neighborhood and childhood crush.

>> translator: he said to me if i don't marry you, i'll become a priest.

>> reporter: surprising some vatican watchers pope francis appears to bless the idea of married priests , at least in the future, saying this about celibacy. "it is a matter of discipline, not faith. it can change."

>> it means basically that pope francis or jorge bergoglio was a man before he became a priest.

>> reporter: he's even waited on sexual matters, what if a priest gets a woman pregnant, "he has to leave the ministry and take care of that child, even if he alcoho chooses not to marry a woman." he's already setting the tone for a more open papacy. in another sign of just how open pope francis s he's reaching out to atheists calling them "our precious allies in the search for human dignity and peace." that's something critics say benedict would never do.

>> jim maceda in london thank you very much.