New Vatican Document Indicates Possible Role for Married Priest and Women in the Amazon

By Mei Manuel, June 09, 2018 04:06 AM


A special document for a meeting of Catholic bishops from the Amazon is expected to evaluate ordaining elderly married men as priests for the Amazon region according to the recent statement from the Church, which also said the Church should make "daring proposals."

The document, released on Friday, said that the synod (meeting) will be taking place in October 2019 and puts the focus on also considering giving women a position in some "type of official ministry."

The synod will be including bishops and representatives from the nine countries within the Amazon basin, including representatives from the indigenous peoples.

The document also re-states Pope Francis' calls to protect the Amazon region from business and consumer greed, saying that the national habitat of the region is necessary for the planet. It also calls for a solution to the lack of priests in the region to say Mass for people in the area which spans more than seven and a half million sq. km.

"One of the main points to be heard is the cry of thousands of communities deprived of the Sunday Eucharist for long periods of time."

The document reiterates that only priests can say Mass, calling for a "process of discernment" within the Church to respond to the "concrete realities of the Amazonian people."

The Church's presence in the Amazon basin, it said, "has been spread precariously thin" because of its size and cultural diversity.

The synod is expected to discuss the possibility of ordaining "viri probati" or men with good character to solve the problem of the lack of priests in the region. The men in question may come from the elderly who are noted as outstanding members of the local Catholic community and with grown-up families.

Last year, Pope Francis has expressed during an interview with a German newspaper that he was willing to consider ordaining older married men as priests for isolated communities like the Amazon. However, he ruled out the possibility of opening the priesthood to all married men or watering down the commitment to celibacy, which every priests abides by to commit their lives fully to serve God.

During the news conference about 'viri probati', Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri said to reporters: "The church is not static... there is possibility of movement." However, he did urge patience and caution, "Let's leave the time necessary for reflection about everything that is in here."

Catholic scholars have also expressed that the approval of 'viri probati' in the Amazon may also lead to the approval of 'viri probati' as priests for far-flung areas with no priests.

The document had also said that given the size of the Amazon: "It is necessary to identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role which women play today in the Amazonian Church."

The document did not elaborate further on the issue.

It did end with a 30-point questionnaire in which members of the Church in the Amazon were invited to give their opinion regarding the issue facing area.

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