Pope asks conservatives not to be bound by status quo

At the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon region on Sunday the Pope Francis appealed to conservatives not to be bound by the status quo.

The synod’s purpose will be to discuss the future of the Church in the Amazon. These discussions will include the possibility of married priests.

Most of the 260 participants at the synod are bishops from the Amazon region.

Francis reminded them that while Catholic prelates are called to be prudent, they are also called to be open to the possibility of new things.

“Prudence is not indecision; it is not a defensive attitude,” he said to the bishops gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“It is the virtue of the pastor who, in order to serve with wisdom, is able to discern, to be receptive to the newness of the Spirit.

“Rekindling our gift in the fire of the Spirit is the opposite of letting things take their course without doing anything,.

He asked God to give the prelates a “daring prudence … to renew the paths of the church.”

One of the most contentious topics of the synod, is whether to allow older married “proven men” – to be ordained.

These men – also called “viri probati” – would have families and a strong standing in local communities in the Amazon.

This option has been offered as one of the means of coping with the present shortage of priests and is backed by many South American bishops.

If adopted, viri probati would allow Catholics in isolated areas to attend Mass and receive the sacraments regularly.

Eighty-five percent of those living in villages in the Amazon region (which spans eight countries and the French territory of Guiana) cannot celebrate Mass every week.

Some see a priest only once a year.

Although the synod members will not make decisions, participants will vote on a final document with the synod’s recommendations.

The pope will then decide which recommendations to integrate into his future rulings.

Other issues on the synod’s discussion list that are likely to be contentious include:

  • Creating are some sort of recognition for women’s ministry
  • Finding ways for Catholic communities in the nine-nation region to speak more vocally against rampant ecological destruction taking place in the region
  • Environmental protection
  • Climate change
  • Deforestation
  • Indigenous people and their right to keep their land and traditions.


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