Pope Francis has dismissed a proposal to allow some married men to be ordained in Latin America’s Amazon region to ease a serious shortage of priests.
The move on Wednesday by the Argentine-born Catholic pontiff represents one of the most significant decisions of his papacy.
Last year, Latin American bishops put forward a recommendation, requesting Pope Francis to allow married men in the Amazon to be ordained as priests. The suggestion had alarmed conservatives in the deeply polarised 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, who feared it could lead to a change in the 1,000-year-old commitment to celibacy among priests.
The Pope delivered his response in an Apostolic Exhortation, three months after the proposal passed by 128 votes to forty-one at a rancorous Vatican assembly, or synod, of Roman Catholic bishops.
Wednesday’s thirty-two-page document did not even mention the synod’s proposal, which was for older married deacons who are proven leaders of remote Catholic communities and have stable families to be ordained as priests.
Conservatives are worried that even a circumscribed change would be a slippery slope leading to a married priesthood throughout the Church. They say a pre-synod working document is tantamount to heresy.
In what some viewed as a strategically timed appeal to Pope Francis not to approve the Amazon proposal, Church conservatives, led by his ninety-five-year-old predecessor, Bennedict, published a book last month, defending the tradition of priestly celibacy.