During a gathering of South American bishops at the Vatican, Pope Francis urged them to consider dropping celibacy requirements for some priests to address a severe priest shortage in remote areas of the region.

The three-week Synod of Bishops for the Amazon also will address crucial regional topics ranging from protection of rainforests and local cultures to climate change, migration and clean water.

“We have not come here to invent programs of social development or custody of cultures,” the pope said. “We come to contemplate, to understand, to serve the peoples.”

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, retired archbishop of Sao Paulo who organized the synod, said many rural Amazon communities have so little access to priests that Sunday Mass can’t be held. And while the Eucharist can be distributed to worshippers by non-priests, the wafers must be blessed by a priest.

Last rites and other Catholic sacraments also are affected, Hummes said.

The proposal would have very specific restrictions on the non-celibate candidates for the priesthood.

…[T]he church has considered the ordination of indigenous elders, “even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure availability of the sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life,” according to the synod’s official working document which The Wall Street Journal cited.

But, some analysts have doubted whether ordaining married indigenous leaders in the Amazon would solve the priest shortage there. Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the head of the Congregation for Bishops, argued in a book published last week that a clergy’s celibacy was precisely why local communities revered them.

Of course, during his sermon associated with the event, the Pope peppered his homily with as many green justice assertions about the Amazon as there were biblical references.

“Fires that are motivated by destructive interests, like the one that recently devastated the Amazon, are not in line with the gospel,” he said.

In a working document from June, bishops had called on the church to “join grassroots social movements, to prophetically announce an agenda of social justice … organic agriculture and agro-forestry.”

It outlined that “Mother Earth” must be defended from an “economic model of predatory and ecocidal development … which kills and plunders, destroys and devastates, expels and discards.”

Ultimately, the Synod participants will vote on a final document of recommendations to deal with the priest shortage, but Pope Frances has the final say on what changes the Catholic Church will adopt.

 
 
donate
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.