Alternative to married clergy: Send some Roman priests home

One Venezuelan prelate taking part in the current Synod of Bishops on the Amazon says people back home have a creative alternative for coping with chronic priest shortages, beyond the much-discussed idea of married clergy to serve isolated rural communities.

Rather than ordaining married men, he said, their proposal is that he bring some of the surfeit of priests who clog the streets of the Eternal City back with him to the rainforest.

“All these priests and religious that we see on TV… It cannot be that they’re all studying in Rome,” said Bishop Johnny Eduardo Reyes, (pictured) apostolic vicar of Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela, explaining that the idea of bringing Roman priests back to the Amazon was floated in the hall by another Venezuelan bishop.

“The distribution of priests and religious is not good,” he said.

Globally speaking, two-thirds of the 1.3 billion Catholics in the world today live in the southern hemisphere, but two-thirds of the world’s 415,000 Catholic priests currently reside in the northern hemisphere.

More basically, Reyes insisted that inventing new ministries, including a form of the priesthood for married men, isn’t the synod’s main challenge. More important, he argued, is the question of proclamation.

“I don’t see a sacramental need, but a need for the first proclamation,” he said. “I don’t see a sense of belonging to the Church from many of the indigenous, as they speak of the Church as an institution foreign to them. There’s a need of belonging.”

Reyes also said that something that had attracted much support in the synod’s assembly was a comment from an unnamed Venezuelan bishop who said his people had asked him to bring some priests and religious home from Rome.

The need for the first proclamation, he said, goes beyond the Amazon and the indigenous, and is also very much needed in Europe and other continents: “People don’t go to Mass. The problem of the [lack] of faith is universal. We need to do something about this, everywhere.” Continue reading

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