Married Priests on the Agenda of the Amazon Synod
Different sources are carrying stories about the possibility of married men being ordained priests being on the agenda of the Amazon Synod. It is an issue that is gaining momentum.
Pope raises prospect of married men becoming priests
John Phillips, Rome
2 November 2017
Pope Francis has requested a debate over allowing married men in the Amazon region of Brazil to become priests, in a controversial move that is likely to outrage conservatives in the Church, Vatican sources say.
The pontiff took the decision to put a partial lifting of priestly celibacy up for discussion and a possible vote by Brazilian bishops following a request made by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, Il Messaggero newspaper quoted the sources saying.
Cardinal Hummes reportedly asked Francis to consider ordaining so-called viri probati, married men of great faith, capable of ministering spiritually to the many remote communities in the Amazon where there is a shortage of priests, and evangelical Christians and pagan sects are displacing Catholicism.
The cardinal’s request has been echoed by Monsignor Erwin Krautler, the secretary of the Episcopal Commission. He has also suggested that the bishops attending the synod in 2019 on the Amazon, now being prepared in Rome, should consider ordaining women deacons as priests.
Monsignor Krausler quoted the Pope as telling him “speak to the bishops and tell them to make valid proposals,” about such ordinations, the Austrian news agency KNA said.
Francis said earlier this year that the Church should consider allowing married men to become priests in specific circumstances, effectively reversing the centuries-old practice that Roman Catholic priests must be celibate.
In an interview with Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper, the pontiff said “We must consider if viri probati is a possibility. Then we must determine what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote communities,” he said.
In the Amazon region, for instance, there is just one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.
There are already a limited number of married priests within the Catholic Church, including married Anglican ministers who defected to Rome, some Coptic Catholics and members of some Eastern rite Catholic churches.
The Pope has said that while he remains in favour of celibacy for priests, the principle is part of the discipline of the Church, rather than dogma, meaning that it can be discussed.
Monsignor Giacomo Canobbio, a leading Italian theologian, added that “the fact of having a wife or children does not limit at all working in a parish.”
Such married priests would not have to take a vow of chastity, he added. “There is no ban. They would have a normal married life. “
“I believe that Francis could review this, though he would not decide alone but would start a collegial process. The question is urgent.”
Nevertheless such a breakthrough is likely to nourish criticism by conservatives who are up in arms over Francis’ decision to allow divorced people who re-marry to receive communion if their priests or local bishop approve.
A Brazilian pilot project could be extended to regularize the position in Africa, where many Catholic priests already have mistresses and children, Monsignor Canobbio told Il Messaggero. “In Africa a good percentage of priests de facto have a family.”
Other items on the agenda of the synod concern defence of the environment, the risk of de-forestation and the protection of indigenous people.
Pope asked to consider letting some married men act as priests
By Delia Gallagher, CNN
Rome (CNN) A high-ranking Vatican official has said he is pressing the Catholic Church to consider allowing married men to act as priests in a remote region of the Amazon.
Bishop Erwin Krautler, secretary for the Commission on the Pan-Amazon Region, wants the subject on the agenda at a meeting in the Vatican in 2019, he told the Austrian news agency KNA.
The proposal centers around the question of allowing faithful Catholic married men to act as priests, including saying Mass and hearing confessions.
Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, president of the Bishops Commission for the Pan-Amazon, and close friend of the Pope, has long supported the idea.
The region is experiencing a shortage of priests and Pope Francis has called for the special meeting of the region’s bishops, called a synod, to tackle its problems.
Pope Francis said in an interview in March 2017 that he would be open to studying the question.
According to the Vatican, the region includes parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Suriname and covers a population of 2.8 million people consisting of 400 indigenous tribes that speak some 240 languages.
Most of the population is Catholic, but due to the remoteness of their villages do not have a local priest.
Although the question is currently limited to the possibility of allowing married men to become priests, Vatican observers say it could be a first step toward a wider discussion on celibacy.
The Amazon Synod: Will the Issue of Married Clergy Be Treated?
October 15, 2017 Anthony Ruff, OSB Ordained Ministry Social Justice
Pope Francis announced today in Rome that he is calling a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the pan-Amazon region. He made the announcement after the Mass at which he canonized 35 new saints, including three indigenous children martyred in 16th century Mexico.
Francis focused on three issues in convoking the synod: the needs of indigenous people, new paths for evangelization, and on the crisis of the rain forest. He stated that the main purpose will be “new paths for the evangelization of God’s people in that region.”
Some commentators already wonder whether “new paths for evangelization” is code language for married clergy. Will the synod take up the possibility of ordaining (some) married men to the priesthood?
Already in 2014, Bishop Erwin Kräutler of Xingu, Brazil suggested, based on his conversation with Pope Francis, that there could be significant steps coming in the question of mandatory celibacy. Kräutler said at the time that this could be on a regional basis for places such as Latin America. The issue is pressing because of the severe priesthood shortage in the region – 90% of all communities in the Amazon have no Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. 70% have Mass two or three times a year – otherwise a Liturgy of the Word is held. Kräutler’s diocese has 800 communities and 27 priests.
In late 2014, the Brazilian bishops established a commission on the question of mandatory celibacy.
Given these developments, it seems very possible that the issued of mandatory celibacy and married priests will be on the docket.
2014 saw the founding of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM). This consists of not only the regional Bishops’ Conferences, but also by priests, missionaries of congregations who work in the Amazon jungle, national representatives of Caritas and laypeople belonging to various Church bodies in the region. REPAM was founded to facilitate cooperation and collaboration in a region facing many challenges – climate change, large-scale mining projects, and actions by transnational corporations have “devastated” the region according to Archbishop Barreto of Huancayo, Peru.
The Amazon territory is the largest tropical forest in the world and includes Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil. It is home to nearly 2.8 million indigenous people in 390 tribes speaking 240 languages in 49 different linguistic families.
At the time of the creation of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network, Brazilian cardinal Cláudio Hummes said that the network “represents a new incentive and relaunch of the work of the Church in Amazonia, strongly desired by the Holy Father. There, the Church wishes to be, with courage and determination, a missionary Church, merciful, prophetic, and close to all the people, especially the poorest, the excluded, the discarded, the forgotten and wounded.’
The pan-Amazon synod announced today will not take place until October, 2019. This time frame will no doubt allow for the discussion of many issues the synod might take up.