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Pope looking at allowing priests in Amazon to be married

Pope Francis has thanked Amazon regional bishops for their
Pope Francis has thanked Amazon regional bishops for their "candour" at a meeting which called for ordaining married priests and other changes to help the Catholic Church's far-flung flock in that part of South America. (stock picture)

By Alex Green

Pope Francis has thanked Amazon regional bishops for their "candour" at a meeting which called for ordaining married priests and other changes to help the Catholic Church's far-flung flock in that part of South America.

In his homily yesterday at a Mass to conclude weeks of discussions at the Vatican on the needs of the Amazon's faithful, Francis did not mention the bishops' vote to press the Vatican to allow married men to become priests in special circumstances.

A day earlier Francis told bishops he would draw his conclusions in a document he hoped to write by the end of the year.

Allowing married men to be ordained in remote Amazon areas that are facing severe shortage of priests would chip away at the Catholic Church's nearly millennium-old teaching upholding priestly celibacy.

The majority of 180 bishops from nine Amazonian countries also called for the Vatican to reopen a debate on ordaining women as deacons, saying: "It is urgent for the Church in the Amazon to promote and confer ministries for men and women in an equitable manner."

The proposals were contained in a final document approved on Saturday at the end of a three-week synod on the Amazon, which Pope Francis called in 2017 to focus attention on saving the rainforest and better ministering to its indigenous people.

The Catholic Church, which contains nearly two dozen different rites, already allows married priests in Eastern Rite churches and in cases where married Anglican priests have converted.

However, if Francis accepts the proposal, it would mark a first for the Latin Rite church in a millennium.

The celibate priesthood has been a tradition of the Latin Rite Catholic Church since the 11th century, imposed in part for financial reasons to ensure that priests' assets pass to the church, not to heirs.

Francis told the bishops at the end of the voting that he would indeed reopen the work of a 2016 commission that studied the issue of women deacons. And he said he planned to take the bishops' overall recommendations and prepare a document of his own before the end of the year.

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