Differing Camps Frame the Debate as Vatican Summit on the Amazon Draws Closer

Pope Francis speaks to indigenous groups in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, on Jan. 19, 2018. Standing with thousands of indigenous Peruvians, Francis declared the Amazon the “heart of the church” and called for a threefold defense of its life, land and cultures. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

As the Vatican inches closer to a gathering of bishops to discuss the Amazon region, key players vie to frame the main issues likely to emerge at the Oct. 6-27 event, from the need for further involvement of women to the possibility of ordaining married men.

At a news conference near the Vatican on Wednesday (Oct. 2), Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet stated that while he welcomes and encourages an open discussion for allowing ordained married men, known as viri probati, to minister to isolated communities where there are few priests, such as those in the Amazon, he has several misgivings.

“I am not opposed,” Ouellet told reporters, “but I am a skeptic on the possibility of viri probati.”

According to the prelate, alternative solutions for catering to the wide Amazonian region have yet to be exhausted and he underlined the need to increase the number of deacons and catechists in the area before jumping to radical solutions.

“I am a skeptic, and I believe I’m not the only one,” he said. “Above me, also, there is one who is even more skeptical but who authorizes the debate.”

While speaking to reporters after the event, Ouellet denied he was referring to the pope during his statement at the conference, but Francis himself has already voiced his concerns around allowing married priests.

“Personally, I think celibacy is a gift for the church,” Francis told journalists aboard the papal flight returning from Panama, adding that he strongly opposed the possibility of priests being able to choose whether they want to be married or unmarried before the diaconate.

“There might only remain a few possibilities in the most remote places,” he added.

Ouellet made his remarks while presenting his new book, “Friends of the Bridegroom: For a Renewed Vision of Priestly Celibacy,” where he makes a case for the “incomparable evangelizing potential” of priests’ celibacy in an increasingly secularized world.

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Source: Religion News Service