Vatican Defends Proposal of Married Priests on Agenda for Amazon Summit

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, speaks during a press conference announcing the synod, at the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. The meeting, which opens on Oct. 6, will discuss social and environmental problems faced by the inhabitants of the Amazon, including the increasing rate of deforestation in the region. At right listening to him is Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, General Rapporteur for the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

Organizers of a Vatican meeting on the Amazon defended plans to introduce debate on married priests, saying Thursday the proposal represents the “the voice of the local church” and isn’t an official proposal of the pope.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri acknowledged the Oct. 6-27 synod on the Amazon has generated criticism, including from cardinals who have accused organizers of making “heretical” proposals in the working document.

Baldisseri told a news conference that such “freedom of expression” was allowed. But he stressed that the working document would be replaced by a final one voted on by Amazonian bishops, and was merely a summary of two years of listening to the Amazonian faithful.

Pope Francis, history’s first Latin American pope, called the meeting in 2017 to address the ecological, social and spiritual needs of indigenous peoples in the Amazon, where poverty is rampant, isolation hinders the church’s ministry and rapid deforestation is threatening the environment.

The most controversial proposal in the synod’s working document calls for Amazonian bishops to study whether older married men who are respected by their communities might be ordained to help address a shortage of priests that is so acute that the faithful can go months without having a proper Mass.

While such a proposal to ordain “viri probati,” or “men of proven virtue” has been around for decades, the Amazon meeting has brought it to the fore given Francis has said he is open to studying an exception to priestly celibacy for a particular location out of “pastoral necessity.”

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Source: Religion News Service