ILOILO (UPDATED)--A priest who has been suspended from his duties when he married a parishioner renewed his call for optional celibacy for the clergy.
"We have to go back to the essence of our Christianity. Long before, priests could have a wife," Father Hector Canto told ABS-CBN News.
His statement comes after President Rodrigo Duterte said that Catholic priests should be allowed to marry.
Canto, who can still perform and administer sacraments despite being suspended, said it is time for the Church to reconsider the law on celibacy.
Two decades after exchanging vows in Iloilo, he and his wife are married with 4 children.
"Before I got married, I received a message from the Holy Mother telling us to push through our plan. He wanted the priest to go back to his son," Canto said.
Such a drastic change, he added, may not be easy since the country is predominantly Catholic.
Canto now runs a transport business in Iloilo.
Pope Francis in January said that celibacy for priests was a "gift to the Church" and not optional.
Celibacy was imposed in the 11th century, possibly as a way to prevent descendants of priests inheriting church property.
Some 60,000 priests have given up their vocation over the past few decades, often to marry. -- With a report from Jennifer Garcia, ABS-CBN News and Agence France-Presse