Married priests: Pope opens debate

Pope Francis is said to be considering including debate about married men’s ordination to the priesthood in next year’s Synod of Bishops.

The context of the discussion will focus on the Church in the Amazon basin.

His comments came in response to a question on the matter from Cardinal Claudio Hummes.

Hummes is the president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, according to the newspaper Il Messaggero.

The newspaper says Hummes asked Francis to consider ordaining viri probati, married men of great faith.

These men would be considered capable of ministering spiritually to the many remote communities in the Amazon.

There is a shortage of priests in the Amazon, and evangelical Christians and pagan sects are displacing Catholicism.

This does not mean Francis is considering opening the door for all Catholic priests to marry.

Dr. Kurt Martens, a canon lawyer and professor at The Catholic University of America, says the Pope’s comments don’t mean the door will open to the married priesthood throughout the Church.

He says the pope’s response was specifically about whether “viri probati” or “proven men” of virtue and prudence could be ordained to the priesthood.

Some people think ordaining these men may resolve the shortage of priestly vocations in Brazil.

“Even if the synod would recommend or ask for the ordination of viri probati in the Pan-Amazon area, it is important to note that the Pope still would have to accept the request and make it into law, and it would most likely be limited to that area,” Martens says.

“So we are not talking about changing the law on celibacy for the whole Church: it would be the ordination of viri probati for only that region.”

In the Amazon region the ratio of Catholics to priests is 10,000 to one.

This is about three times the worldwide ratio of Catholics to priests throughout the world.

Monsignor Erwin Krautler, the secretary of the Episcopal Commission supports Hummes’s request.

He has also suggested the bishops attending next year’s synod on the Amazon should consider ordaining women deacons as priests.


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