A firm just and necessary defense of the Amazonian peoples and of an integral ecology.
1. After two intense weeks of prayer and liturgical celebrations, general session, sessions of the small groups, meetings of various types and parallel activities, the Pan-Amazonian synod is now in its final phase.
2. Many subjects have been treated, with great freedom and respect, by the synod fathers. Some have given testimonies of their work, their difficulties and pastoral successes. Others have presented contributions to the ecological and social themes. These, in a necessary and just line of defense of the rights of the Amazon peoples and the ecology of the territory, have been well received by the solemn assembly. The majority of the synodal fathers have spoken of strictly pastoral subjects.
Of these some are of weightier relevance. One of these is the subject of elder, married priests. I would like to offer some reflections upon this point.
An important fact: Not all the Amazon population are indigenous people.
3. This subject of ordination concerns the entire universal Church. And let us recall that the population of Amazonia is 34 million, of which only 3 million, less than 10%, are indigenous, those not integrated into the social life of their various countries.
This is to say that the indigenous population, which suffers pastoral visitation and not presence, is not the majority of the Amazonian populations, of which the greatest part are Latin American and mestizo (mixed race), baptized Catholics or other Christians. And so we should not generalize and present the problem of chronic absence of priests as that of all Amazonia. The problem is present particularly in the isolated indigenous communities. In the territory there are also large cities, important dioceses and archdioceses, better served than the indigenous communities that are scattered across huge extensions of land.
The solution: to ordain virtuous older married men as priests?
4. Of course there is a legitimate concern for improving pastoral attention to these indigenous populations. And a solution to the shortage of priests must be found. The synod has considered the possibility of ordaining as priests married men of known virtue, living with their own families in these communities that would make possible the frequent celebration of the Eucharist. The instrumentum laboris (working document) clearly upholds the continuation of the discipline of celibacy as a gift to the Church. All well and good! In effect: We, in imitation of Christ, celibate and spouse of the Church, the priests of Latin Rite, as well as many of the Oriental Churches, freely choose to consecrate our lives to God and to the Church. For this we renounce marriage, and we make a religious commitment to God to live in perfect chastity. This is a strong way to configuring ourselves to Christ, the High and Eternal Priest and Good Shepherd.
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