Pope Francis has issued his much awaited response following the Synod on the Amazon.
As part of his opening Francis wrote “I will not go into all of the issues treated at length in the final document. Nor do I claim to replace that text or to duplicate it. I wish merely to propose a brief framework for reflection that can apply concretely to the life of the Amazon region a synthesis of some of the larger concerns that I have expressed in earlier documents, and that can help guide us to a harmonious, creative and fruitful reception of the entire synodal process.”
In the final document of the October synod on the Amazon the majority of bishops asked for the establishment of criteria so that some married men could be ordained as priests. The bishops also called for the Vatican to reopen a study commission on ordaining women as deacons.
In his document ‘Beloved Amazon’ Francis calls for greater lay participation in the church and says the training of priests in the Amazon must be changed so they are better able to minister to indigenous peoples. “Every effort should be made” to give the faithful access to the Eucharist.
He also writes “This urgent need leads me to urge all bishops, especially those in Latin America, not only to promote prayer for priestly vocations, but also to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region”
He does not deal specifically with the issues of the ordination of women as deacons or married men as priests.
Reactions are expected to be swift, and depending on each person’s expectations concerning the future of ministry will be either very disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be any change planned, or reassured that the status quo is being maintained.
There is of course much else in Francis’ Beloved Amazon that will need to be studied. His four great dreams for the Amazon region bear great consideration.
“I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor, the original peoples and the least of our brothers and sisters, where their voices can be heard and their dignity advanced.
I dream of an Amazon region that can preserve its distinctive cultural riches, where the beauty of our humanity shines forth in so many varied ways.
I dream of an Amazon region that can jealously preserve its overwhelming natural beauty and the superabundant life teeming in its rivers and forests.
I dream of Christian communities capable of generous commitment, incarnate in the Amazon region, and giving the Church new faces with Amazonian features.”
Time will judge whether this will be seen as a great challenge or an opportunity missed.