Bishops meeting at the Vatican formally recommended on Saturday that Pope Francis lift in the Amazon region the Roman Catholic Church’s nearly 1,000-year-old restriction on the ordination of married men as priests to address a scarcity, a step that could revolutionize the priesthood.
New York Times reports:
“It is the first time a summit of bishops convened by a pope has endorsed such a historic change to the tradition of a celibate priesthood. The proposal, while limited to remote areas in South America and married men already ordained as deacons in the church, could set a precedent for easing the restriction on married priests throughout the world, including in the United States and Europe.”
If Francis, who has already signaled an openness on the issue, accepts the bishops’ recommendation, he will turn the remote areas of the Amazon into a laboratory for a Catholic Church looking to the global south for its future, with married priests and indigenous rites mixing with traditional liturgy.
The pope is expected to respond to the proposals by the end of this year. The final document of the summit, noting that many of the faithful in the Amazon region have “enormous difficulties” in receiving communion and seeing a priest, proposed to “ordain priests suitable and esteemed men of the community,” who had already had “fruitful” experiences as deacons and who “receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, having a legitimately constituted and stable family.”