Last year, Pope Francis called for “bold proposals” to meet the spiritual needs of Catholics in the Amazon, a vast region with a scarcity of clerics.
But in a papal document released Wednesday, Francis ignored the boldest one: allowing married priests.
Instead, Francis’ highly anticipated document on the Amazon region, Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon) focuses mostly on cultural and environmental issues. Francis spices the 32-page document with plenty of poetry, but offers few, if any, pragmatic changes for the church.
The lack of an opening for married priests, or women deacons, is expected to disappoint the Pope’s liberal supporters, particularly in the Americas and Europe.
“People are starting to adjust their expectations,” said Massimo Faggioli, a church historian at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. “The major reforms they were expecting of him may never come.”
…[The Pope] does not mention the proposal [for married priests] in his document. Instead, the Pope reiterates that only a priest can preside at the Eucharist and that saying Mass is a “non-delegable function.”The Pope also said it is a “narrow aim” to be concerned only with “a greater presence of ordained ministers who can celebrate the Eucharist.”Instead Francis called on nuns and lay Catholics to assume “important responsibilities” in their church communities and urged bishops in Latin America to pray for priestly vocations in the Amazon.
Catholic News Agency adds:
Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis’s much-anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation, presents the pope’s “four great dreams” for the Pan-Amazonian region’s ecological preservation and “Amazonian holiness.”
The exhortation does not quote from the recommendations of the bishops at the Vatican’s October meeting on the Amazon. Instead, Pope Francis “officially present[s]” the synod’s final document alongside his exhortation, asking “everyone to read it in full.”
The topic of ordaining viri probati, or proven men, was a topic of considerable discussion at the synod. While Pope Francis does not address that topic directly, the Vatican’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, addressed it in a column released alongside the apostolic exhortation
Speaking of priestly celibacy, Tornielli wrote that “the Successor of Peter, after praying and reflecting, has decided to respond not by foreseeing changes or further possibilities of exceptions from those already provided for by current ecclesiastical discipline, but by asking that the essentials be the starting point,” for discussions regarding priestly ministry in the Amazon.
“He asks us to begin again with a vivacious and incarnated faith, with a renewed missionary thrust rooted in the grace that allows room for God to act rather than on marketing strategies or the communication technologies relied on by the religious influencers,” Tornielli added
Nearly half of the pope’s own 24-page document is dedicated to Pope Francis’ “Ecclesial Dream” for the Amazon region, in which the pope stresses the singular role of the priest, while affirming the laity’s ongoing contributions to evangelization.
“No Christian community is built up which does not grow from and hinge on the celebration of the most holy Eucharist … 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,” Pope Francis wrote in the exhortation, published Feb. 12.
And there is this section, regarding women deacons or priests:
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the Amazon calls for women in the South American region to be included in new forms of service in the Church, but not within the ordained ministries of the permanent diaconate or priesthood.
To admit women to Holy Orders “would in fact narrow our vision; it would lead us to clericalize women, diminish the great value of what they have already accomplished, and subtly make their indispensable contribution less effective,” the exhortation, published Feb. 12, states.
“Women make their contribution to the Church in a way that is properly theirs, by making present the tender strength of Mary, the Mother,” the pope writes. “As a result, we do not limit ourselves to a functional approach, but enter instead into the inmost structure of the Church.”
In his letter, called Querida Amazonia, Francis writes that with “new and unprecedented threats” to the region, the Church must “encourage the emergence of other forms of service and charisms that are proper to women and responsive to the specific needs of the peoples of the Amazon region at this moment in history.”
The president of the USCCB, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, this morning issued the following statement in response to the document:
“Today our Holy Father Pope Francis offers us a hopeful and challenging vision of the future of the Amazon region, one of the earth’s most sensitive and crucial ecosystems, and home to a rich diversity of cultures and peoples. The Pope reminds us that the Church serves humanity by proclaiming Jesus Christ and his Gospel of love, and he calls for an evangelization that respects the identities and histories of the Amazonian peoples and that is open to the ‘novelty of the Spirit, who is always able to create something new with the inexhaustible riches of Jesus Christ.’
“He also calls all of us in the Americas and throughout the West to examine our ‘style of life’ and to reflect on the consequences that our decisions have for the environment and for the poor. Along with my brother bishops here in the United States, I am grateful for the Holy Father’s wisdom and guidance and we pledge our continued commitment to evangelizing and building a world that is more just and fraternal and that respects the integrity of God’s creation.”