Pope dismisses proposal to allow married priests

Katie Ramirez
February 15, 2020

The Archbishop of Armagh has said he understands that there was some "disappointment" that the Pope has not responded to the proposal of married men becoming priests in the Amazon region.

If Francis confirms the status quo, however, he would estrange progressives, such as the German Catholic Church, which is among those most supportive of change.

While apologising for "crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America", Francis acknowledged the challenges faced by the Church in remote areas of the Amazon today and urged bishops to encourage young missionaries to preach there.

Pope Francis greets people as he arrives for the weekly general audience at the Vatican, February 12, 2020. And it relieved conservatives who have used the debate over priestly celibacy to heighten opposition to the pope, whom some have accused of heresy.

He addressed the document to all peoples of the world "to help awaken their affection and concern for that land which is also ours and to invite them to value it and acknowledge it as a sacred mystery".

But there was no mention of priestly marriage, a controversial suggestion made by Amazon bishops last October as a way to increase the number of priests who could perform Mass in remote areas.

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In his exhortation, the pope said that priests are essential for the full life of Catholic communities since they are the only ones who can consecrate the Eucharist and grant absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Pope Francis avoided the issue of whether priests should remain celibate in a much-anticipated document. Francis had created such a commission in 2016 at the insistence of religious sisters who want more say and roles in church governance and ministry, but the group ended its work without reaching consensus. They branded a pre-synod working document as heretical.

Fr Paddy Byrne said there is a community of people in the Amazon "that are hungry for faith" and there now seems to be a self-imposed starvation by alienating women and men from administering the eucharist for them.

The recommendation, which Latin American bishops introduced a year ago, had alarmed conservatives in the deeply polarized 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, who feared it could lead to a change in the age-old commitment to celibacy among priests.

The Catholic Church retains the priesthood for men, arguing that Christ and his apostles were male.

"From the Depths of Our Hearts" was co-authored by Cardinal Robert Sarah and Former Pope Benedict, though Francis' predecessor subsequently disassociated himself from the project.

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